ATHENS – The major opposition Radical Left SYRIZA, four months after being routed in snap elections by New Democracy, has reverted to its old ways of backing violent demonstrations against the government said, as the commemoration of the Nov. 17, 1973 student uprising against the military dictatorship was nearing.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who took office saying he wouldn’t – as SYRIZA had – condone lawlessness and anarchists rampaging across the capital almost at will, has sent squadrons of riot police to clear out the anti-establishment-dominated neighborhood of Exarchia.
The government has intensified its crackdown after clashes between police and far-left protesters at the the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) as demonstrators were angry the school shut down ahead of the Nov. 17 marking that traditionally sees violence ending outside the US Embassy to show anger Washington backed the junta of Colonels from 1967-74.
On Monday, the conservative government has underlined its determination to crack down on
Government sources who weren’t identified told Kathimerini there’s anxiety that the protests could pick up even before Nov. 17 and that they blame SYRIZA for working behind the scenes to try to align themselves with the demonstrators.
University rectors have also expressed concern about upheaval. The senate of the National Technical University of Athens said it feared repercussions following the police’s intervention at the AUEB, the paper said.
But government spokesman Stelios Petsas made clear that authorities would enforce their plan to curb lawlessness.
“Universities belong to students, neighborhoods to residents and assets to their owners,” Petsas said when asked whether he feared violent protests on Nov. 17, a date which frequently sees anarchists torch cars and stores and engage in street warfare with police.
“The government is determined to be done with the safe houses of self-styled anarchists, with Molotov cocktails, with drug dealers, and with contraband trade on campuses,” Petsas said, adding that students should feel “safe and free in their universities from the fascistic imposition of opinions by small minorities.”
After taking power, New Democracy ended asylum on college campuses that had been used as grounds by anarchists to store weapons and a place to run back to in order to escape police who weren’t allowed in.
With tremors rising after police took apart the anarchist group Revolutionary Self-Defense, confiscated an anarchist cache at the AUEB and raided squats in Exarchia, Petsas lashed out at SYRIZA ministers who joined a student demontration.
He condemned SYRIZA for tolerating the asylum law, abolished in August, that permitted anarchists to use campuses as safe houses and had turned part of the grounds of AUEB into a haven for drug dealers and criminals and anarchists.
Former SYRIZA Minister Alexis Haritsis slammed the government’s crackdown as “irresponsible and dangerous,” saying it was trying to “divert public debate from its unprecedented inadequacy in tackling the refugee crisis by using violence and suppression.”