2/2 © Reuters. Cypriots March Peacefully Against Corruption and COVID-19 Restrictive Measures in Nicosia 2/2
NICOSIA (Reuters) – Thousands of Cypriots protesting coronavirus restrictions and corruption staged a peaceful march on Saturday in defiance of the ban on gatherings. The event, which followed a violent police crackdown on an earlier protest that drew widespread criticism last week, saw protesters with flowers and banners parade down a central thoroughfare in the capital, Nicosia, toward the island’s parliament. . Police observed protesters wearing face masks from a distance. Cyprus, which has fared better than most countries in handling the pandemic, has been in and out of the blockade for about a year. However, revelations of perceived corruption of an investment passport scheme have fueled public discontent. “I feel like my future is hanging by a thread. There are no jobs, but the rulers and their friends are getting rich,” said a protester identified only as Ioanna, 24. A smaller protest on February 13 was met with a heavy-handed response from the police, who clashed with protesters and deployed water cannons. The incident prompted a police investigation and the island’s justice minister admitted that some scenes showed a disproportionate reaction. On Saturday, the water cannon was kept at arm’s length, stationed about two kilometers inside the medieval walls of the capital, Nicosia. Last year, authorities abruptly withdrew the passport scheme after the Al Jazeera news network featured people allegedly willing to facilitate citizenship to a fictitious investor with a criminal record, which they subsequently denied. The plan is also being investigated by an independent board of inquiry. “Down with the Junta del Particionista,” read a banner, with the word ‘partitionista’, a play with the name of President Nicos Anastasiades, referring to the ethnic division of the island populated by Greek and Turkish Cypriots.