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World

Greek students protest against university police plan

  • The ministries of education and police this week rolled out the plan to create a dedicated 1,000-strong force to patrol campuses.
14 Jan 2021

ATHENS: Hundreds of Greek students on Thursday demonstrated in Athens and other cities over a plan to better police the country's violence-prone universities.

"Cops out of campuses," read a banner in the Athens protest, where brief scuffles broke out with riot police who prevented the demonstrators from occupying the street.

Protests were also held in Thessaloniki and Patras.

The ministries of education and police this week rolled out the plan to create a dedicated 1,000-strong force to patrol campuses.

The officers will not carry firearms but will be equipped with batons and pepper spray, the police ministry said.

The operation of Greek universities has been disrupted for decades by clashes and violence against staff, often blamed on youth organisations affiliated with the country's leading parties.

"Things must change," government spokesman Christos Tarantilis, formerly a professor of management science, told reporters on Thursday.

"Because of violence and lawlessness, Greek (universities) have trouble evolving," he said, citing the cancellation of congresses and other events.

In October, there was uproar after the rector of the Athens University of Economics and Business -- Tarantilis' former workplace -- was assaulted in his office by a group of hooded youths and forced to wear a sign around his neck that read 'Solidarity to sit-ins'.

The issue of police entering universities is highly sensitive in Greece, where memories of student beatings and killings by security forces during the 1967-74 military dictatorship are still vivid.

Under the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, there have been recurring reports of heavy-handed police tactics against protesters.

The opposition has also complained against a restriction imposed on protests, which the government has attributed to coronavirus precautions.