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Greece: Protest Gets Heated Ahead of Campus Policing Vote (Pics & Vids)

February 10, 2021

ATHENS — Student protesters hurled bottles, rocks, and gasoline bombs at police in central Athens 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 center-right government says it wants to establish a campus police force to stop university grounds from being used for illegal activities such as selling counterfeit goods or organizing violent protests.

"It’s 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’m 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’s unbelievable. Maybe the Ministry of Defense would like to join too.”

Lawmakers are set to vote on the education bill later Wednesday, or on Thursday if the debate is extended.

MeRA 25 says its deputy and Parliament VP Sofia Sakorafa was assaulted by police

MeRA25 said that its MP and Vice-President of Parliament, Sofia Sakorafa, was attacked by riot police outside Attica police headquarters on Wednesday evening.

Sakorafa was at the building along with others after a roundup of protesters against the education bill and tried to intervene.

Referring to Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis, MeRA25 said Sakorafa was attacked by "Chryssochoidis' riot police when she intervened while the riot police were attacking those gathered there."

Chryssochoidis and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, "who have given forces of oppression a free hand, bringing authoritarianism and raw violence against simple citizens and their political opponents, are fully responsible for these unprecedented and extremely tragic incidents that directly resemble a dictatorship wearing the guise of parliamentary rule," it said.

MP Sakorafa, it added, is well "but democracy not so, when riot police hit a vice-president of Parliament."

Meanwhile, deputies in Parliament who heard of the incident called for a break in the proceedings of debating the education bill until a minister could show up with explanations.

52 people detained

Some 52 individuals were detained for questioning during the student protest rally, reported the police.

Police at the parliament's forecourt were attacked by a group of 200 people, who broke away from the main protest of approximately 5,000 attendees, but were repelled by restricted use of tear gas, the police said in a statement.

Police were thrown molotov petrol bombs a short while later at Propylaia, outside Panepistimio metro station, where tear gas was used again.

Student organizations protested the government's education bill, which foresees in-campus security forces and amended minimum grades required for university entry. It is scheduled for a plenary vote on Wednesday evening.

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