Athens Braces for Nov. 17 Commemoration Protest, Anarchist Battle

Flowers cover part of a monument honouring students killed in a 1973 pro-democracy uprising, in the courtyard of the National Technical University of Athens, known as the Athens Polytechnic, on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS – Expeting that otherwise peaceful demonstrations marking the 46th anniversary of the Nov. 17, 1973 student uprising that began the downfall of a military dictatorship will turn violent with anarchists hijacking the event, more than 5,000 Greek police officers will be on the streets of the capital, accompanied by drones and helicopters.

That comes as tension has been rising after Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, vowing to end lawlessness he said was tolerated by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA he ousted in July 7 snap elections, with riot police going into the anarchist-dominated neighborhood of Exarchia to confront them and empty abandoned buildings of squatters.

The Greek Police (ELAS) has “specially formulated” plans for each university campus and “specific orders and instructions,” Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Eleftherios Oikonomou, a former ELAS chief, told Parliament, said Kathimerini, and were working with university officials.

Another catalyst this year is that New Democracy ended asylum on college campuses that had been used by agitators as bases to launch attacks and as a refuge to return to with police barred from entering but that sanctuary is over for them.

A girl stands in front of a monument honouring students killed in a 1973 pro-democracy uprising, in the courtyard of the National Technical University of Athens, known as the Athens Polytechnic, on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

Responding to questions by opposition lawmakers about whether police would enter campuses, Oikonomou said that there would be interventions if punishable offenses are committed, such as using Molotov Cocktails, for which penalties have been increased but said that the police would use a “measured response” and not brute force.

In a letter to Mitsotakis and Education Minister Niki Kerameus, students from Athens University Law School complained about ongoing sit-ins at their faculty by a minority of students who have taken over, a common practice at Greek universities where they are allowed to have control.

Describing themselves as the faculty’s “silent majority,” the students asked how long they will have to put up with “illegal and unconstitutional procedures,” as Mitsotakis had said he would also restore law-and-order at universities frequently occupied by  students who aren’t disciplined, expelled or prosecuted either.

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