Protesters across Greece took to the streets Wednesday to demonstrate against a proposed education bill that calls for, in part, police presence on Greek university campuses.
Additionally, demonstrators marched to call for Greece to safely open all schools under strict anti-virus measures. Activists claim that school closures harm not only students, but also teachers.
In Athens, thousands of protesters, nearly all wearing masks, marched toward the Hellenic Parliament Building in Syntagma Square on Wednesday, where the bill is currently under debate by members of Parliament.
Upon their arrival, the demonstrators, numbering nearly 5,000 people, encountered the Greek riot police, who threw tear gas into the throng of protestors in order to disperse the crowd.
Reportedly, the police have also made multiple arrests in Athens.
The protests caused closures of Panepistimiou, Stadiou, and Amalias Streets in the capital city.
Similar clashes between protesters and police took place in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-most populous city.
There, a few anarchists amongst the multitudes of demonstrators broke off from the crowd and began to throw rocks at riot police, and even threw Molotov cocktails into dumpsters to set them on fire.
Riot police broke up the crowd with tear gas, and reportedly made one arrest.
These protests are the latest in a series of large demonstrations against the new bill that have taken place across Greece.
Police on campus
Notably, the controversial bill calls for the presence of 1,000 uniformed, unarmed guards on Greece’s university campuses. These guards will answer to the Greek Police Force, and have similar policing duties.
This move is incredibly controversial in a country where the presence of police in universities has been banned since the 1980s.
Greece barred police from university campuses in 1982, in response to the Polytechnic uprising years earlier. In 1973, students protesting the country’s right-wing military dictatorship were brutally murdered by police and military forces at the Athens Polytechnic University.
Activists saw the recent move as going back toward a dark period in the country’s history.
The government, however, argued that the decision was necessary after Greek campuses recorded many instances of drug dealing and violence on their properties.
Additionally, the bill proposes limits on the time spent on campus of an additional two years for those completing four-year degrees, and three extra years for those attending programs that last for over four years.
Since higher education at public universities in Greece is free, a large portion of the population seeks out higher education. Often, however, students in Greece are extend their studies for many years, a practice that lawmakers are hoping to stop with the new draft bill.