Tensions were high on Thursday evening in Athens during a students’ demonstration, who were protesting against the decision to keep all higher education institutions in the capital closed, four days ahead of the anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising against the Military Junta in 1973. When the students’ demonstration was closing to an end, just outside the historic building of Athens Polytechnic School on Patission Street, riot police (MAT) made extended use of tear gas and stun grenades in order to prevent students from entering the building, where they planned to hold a general assembly called by student unions.
The climate in the Greek capital was tensioned since morning, when students gathered outside the Law School of the University of Athens and attempted to enter the building only to come up against platoons of Greek riot police guarding its entrance, not allowing anyone to enter. During the clashes that followed, riot police units attempted to clear the students off the building’s quad and two students were severely injured in the head.
This incident led to the evening students’ demonstration which was stigmatized by clashes between the two sides. The first incident took place at around 7:30pm when a group of demonstrators threw stones against the police squads, which responded with use of stun grenades. A few minutes later, and after the demonstrators passed outside the Parliament building at around 8:00pm, a second round of clashes started, this time outside the Polytechnic School. Almost 200 students attempted to enter the building that was blocked by police. Apart from the extended use of chemicals, the students reported that riot police made use of violence, hitting many of them with batons.
The deanship of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, as well as those of the National Technical University of Athens (Polytechnic School) and Athens University of Economic and Business, asked for the main university buildings in downtown Athens to be guarded by police to avoid sit-ins, ahead of the November 17 Uprising anniversary on Monday. The students are also protesting against University of Athens’ newly elected dean, Theodoros Fortsakis, to appoint private security guards for the university buildings, as well as against the discharge of the university’s administrative employees.
The day’s street fights were also discussed in Parliament, with main opposition SYRIZA’s spokesman, Panos Skourletis, criticizing the government policies against students: “This autocratic stance is a provocation toward our youth, the anti-dictatorial struggles and democracy”, he said, causing the response of ruling New Democracy’s MP Costas Markopoulos, who accused SYRIZA for defending “terrorism, sit-ins and lawlessness.”
For Friday, students along with administrative employees, teachers and members of the academia have called for a new Paneducational demonstration in Athens at 12:00pm, while on Monday’s anniversary marching, more than 7,000 police officers will be en garde solely in Athens.
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