Student protest gets heated ahead of campus policing vote in Greece

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Student protesters hurled bottles, rocks and gasoline bombs at police in central Athens on Wednesday during nationwide demonstrations against an education bill that would allow police to patrol university campuses.

In the capital, riot police used tear gas and detained two protesters after clashes broke out outside Parliament. Protests also turned violent in Greece’s second-largest city Thessaloniki.

The centre-right government said it wants to establish a campus police force to stop university grounds from being used for illegal activities such as selling counterfeit goods or organising violent protests.

“It is time to stop what has been going on for decades, and once and for all end this atmosphere of fear, intimidation and lawlessness in universities,” Education Minister Niki Kerameus said during the debate on the bill that includes other higher education reforms.

Left-wing opposition parties and education unions are supporting demonstrations against the legislation, accusing the government of taking advantage of the country’s virus lockdown to impose oppressive police measures.

“I am telling you that, in practice, this law to police universities will never be implemented,” Communist Party lawmaker Thanassis Pafilis said. “This is an education bill that is being co-sponsored by the Ministry of Public Order. Whoever heard of something like that ever happening? It is unbelievable. Maybe the Ministry of Defence would like to join, too.”

Police detain protesters during a student rally against campus policing, in Athens. PHOTO: AP