About a thousand students, according to the police, demonstrated Thursday in Athens defying the confinement imposed for two months, to protest against a bill requiring for the first time in Greece the presence of police officers in universities.
“Students are not criminals,” proclaimed a banner held up by demonstrators wearing masks.
In Thessaloniki, the second city in the north, a demonstration of hundreds of students was dispersed by the police who briefly used tear gas.
A week ago, similar protests took place in Athens and other cities against this bill which establishes a special body of police to patrol universities which are often the scene of violence between different political groups.
“Universities are crucial public structures which are the object of threats against security”, indicated the Minister of Citizen Protection, Michalis Chryssohoïdis.
During his press briefing on Thursday, government spokesman and former university professor Christos Tarantilis described this bill as “emblematic”, stressing that it should have been voted for several years.
The presence of the police in the universities, traditionally very politicized, has been a delicate subject in Greece since the bloody repression in November 1973 by the army and the police of a student movement at the Polytechnic of Athens against the junta of colonels of the time.
In power for more than a year and a half, the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis has made “security a priority” and increased the number of police forces and controls.
This “security” policy has been criticized by the opposition and the media, which denounce numerous cases of police repression and the ban on public gatherings against the backdrop of measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a “national plan for the management of demonstrations”, frequent in Greece, the government intends to “fix specific places for journalists covering them”, Michalis Chryssohoïdis said Thursday.
This plan also provides for the use of “loudspeakers” by the police to manage the situation in the event of the dispersion of the demonstration by the police or the use of tear gas or water cannons.