Campaigners against a new government law allowing police to attack university grounds had been occupying the Aristotle University’s Rector’s Office, until a dawn raid yesterday.
On Thursday morning the Greek police assaulted the cops off campus occupation, which had been running for 18 days as part of escalating action against the New Democracy Party’s attempt to crack down on student dissent. The 6am operation saw 33 people arrested, 26 men and seven women, 19 of which were students.
The topic of campus policing is a sensitive one for Greece, as university sanctuary rules were originally a response to the actions of Greece’s former military junta in violently crushing the 1973 Polytechnic Uprising, and iconic of its modern democracy. Until recent NDP reforms, police could only access university grounds if there was direct evidence of a crime or upon request from the Dean.
Under Prime MInister Mitsotakis however this state of affairs is to be reversed, with a permanent 1,000-strong force established across Greece’s five largest institutions, alongside the implementing of new disciplinary commissions with powers of expulsion.
So after the raids, when an afternoon march saw thousands in the streets chanting “The Junta is Back” alongside ongoing unrest around Dimtris Koufontinas’ hunger strike, growing communities of resistance and clashes taking place in the streets, the stage seemed to have been set for a sticky Spring. A report from Athens Indymedia describes the rally:
“The procession, which had seen earlier groups gathering at the Theater School and the Statue of Venizelos, initially moved towards the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace and returned to Kamara (approx here). Police had blocked Egnatia Road shortly before the Fountain with barriers to prevent the movement of students and their allies towards their university.
“A delegation of teachers asked the police to leave, which of course was not accepted. This was followed by a clash between part of the march and the police forces in Kamara. Despite heavy use of tear gas, the crowd did not panic, and continued to march in coordination towards the statue of Venizelos. Attacks by the MAT (riot police) were continuous, but the line did not break and the march was still organised when it reached the statue of Venizelos, where the last attacks of the police took place.”
Pics: Athens Indymedia