Athens, Greece – College college students in Greece are getting ready to combat an training invoice they are saying will hurt freedom of expression on campus.
The conservative New Democracy authorities needs to create a brand new police drive for universities, empowered to arrest and cost these thought-about “troublemakers”.
Though campus police wouldn’t bear firearms, they might have the ability to name in riot police and different reinforcements.
The federal government additionally needs to introduce disciplinary boards with powers to droop or expel college students.
However maybe most controversially, college students may face scrutiny for placing up posters or banners, and for “noise air pollution”.
“We’re afraid of the disciplinary measures within the invoice, which basically permit vigilantism on campus, and all types of political expression are interpreted as misdemeanours,” mentioned Hara Mantadaki, a political science pupil at Panteion College of Social and Political Sciences.
She spoke to Al Jazeera throughout a pupil protest towards the measures, the place loud music was being performed and banners had been being painted – routine occasions on Greek campuses.
“Even what we’re doing right here wouldn’t be allowed,” she mentioned.
In a while Thursday, college students plan to protest towards the invoice, which might be debated in parliament subsequent week.
When it got here to energy in 2019, New Democracy abolished campus immunity from police entry, often called asylum, courting to the Eighties.
“Folks attempting to keep away from police forces had been getting ready to enter these [university] buildings as a result of police forces didn’t have the fitting to enter there,” mentioned Angelos Syrigos, a former professor of worldwide legislation and now deputy training minister answerable for passing the brand new measures.
“The principle downside is folks coming from exterior, not college college students,” Syrigos advised Al Jazeera. “I strongly consider that 90 % of the issue goes to be solved with the introduction of the checking of the folks getting into the college buildings. Police forces are wanted for the remaining 10 %.”
Lots of the measures the federal government proposes – corresponding to higher lighting, surveillance cameras, gates with card readers and on-campus safety guards – are broadly accepted by the tutorial group.
“Safety will not be what it needs to be … [It] has been scaled again an excellent deal in recent times for monetary causes,” Evangelos Sapountzakis, assistant rector on the Athens Polytechnic, advised Al Jazeera. “The result’s acts of violence, thefts and so forth. We’d like state cash to spice up safety.”
Final 12 months, intruders stole $200,000 value of kit from the polytechnic. Sapountzakis says these are typical annual losses.
However police have created a nasty impression since they acquired the facility to enterprise on to campuses at will.
“There have been many occasions when riot police had surrounded college students and saved them hostage contained in the campus. There have been events when tear gasoline was used exterior the constructing and prevented us from getting into,” mentioned Alexandra Vatopoulou, an accounting pupil on the Athens College of Economics and Enterprise, who opposes the measures.
Final February, college students filmed a police officer with a drawn gun exterior the AUEB.
“The policeman had come sporting civilian garments,” mentioned Thanos Golomazos, a third-year administration pupil who was current. “He stood out right here and began terrorising and scary folks. When college students confronted him he pulled out a gun … it was he who brought about the incident.”
The federal government insists that on-campus violence justifies a everlasting police presence.
Final October, eight masked and gloved assailants entered the AUEB rector’s workplace. They grabbed him by the neck, threatened him, smashed his laptop, vandalised his workplace and posted an image of him on-line with an indication round his neck sporting an anarchist slogan.
Up to now, college members have been attacked or bricked into their workplaces.
Syrigos, the deputy training minister, was himself attacked in 2017 for asking three folks to make use of posters as a substitute of portray slogans on a college wall.
“My college students and I ended considered one of these folks and handed him to police forces… it was the primary time that an individual coming from these teams went to court docket and was tried for these actions,” mentioned Syrigos. He would really like such motion to be institutional, not private.
But college and directors who supported Syrigos then, now aspect with college students.
“Externally sourced safety that doesn’t reply to school authorities places into doubt the liberty of the tutorial setting,” mentioned Sapountzakis, the assistant rector.
The federal government has discovered itself politically remoted.
“The one factor the federal government is attaining is to annoy a vexed society and a pupil physique that’s anxious about its future,” mentioned Hara Kefalidou, shadow training minister for the socialist Kinima Allagis.
An iconic conflict
The immunity of Greek college campuses from police goes again to November 1973, when the army management then ruling Greece used the military and police to smash a pupil protest on the Athens Polytechnic, simply 300 yards (274 metres) away from the AUEB.
Though nobody was harm on campus, an estimated three dozen folks had been killed on the night time of the operation and in the course of the days that adopted.
The incident brought about a preferred backlash towards the ruling colonels, whose regime collapsed the next 12 months. The scholars who started the unravelling of the colonels’ regime had been idolised because the nation’s conscience, and lots of the socialist politicians who got here to energy in 1981 had been drawn from the legendary “Polytechnic era”.
As soon as put in, they handed a legislation forbidding police entry onto campuses.
The clashes of November 17, 1973, have since turn into an annual pageant, with college students and anarchists raining Molotov cocktails on police, and organising roadblocks across the Polytechnic.
In November 2019, the rector of the AUEB tried to stop a pupil meeting that was to plan that 12 months’s anniversary, by shutting down the campus for per week. College students broke the padlocks and held their meeting anyway.
“As we had been about to start, we noticed the riot police who’re usually parked across the again of the constructing, assault the scholars,” mentioned Golomazos, the administration pupil.
Although designed to stop a replay of the occasions of 1973, the police intervention turned an uncanny re-enactment of it. Police took possession of the campus, but it surely was a Pyrrhic victory.
“Within the days that adopted folks got here right here to help us,” mentioned Golomazos, maybe unaware that the scholars of 1973, too, had obtained public help by means of the locked gates of the Polytechnic.
However anarchists and individuals who had been launched from jail used campuses to flee arrest when clashing with police.
In 2011, it was a socialist authorities which partly repealed campus asylum, permitting the rector to ask police on his personal authority. The left-wing Syriza occasion restored it in 2017.
This invoice affords Syriza an opportunity to enhance its approval rankings, mentioned Kefalidou, the socialist politician.
“It’s giving the kiss of life to extremists, particularly the [leftwing] Syriza opposition, to start out a cat and mouse sport on college campuses. We don’t want this rigidity.”
Syrigos stands agency, nonetheless. “[Syriza’s] response is towards what Greek society thinks,” he advised Al Jazeera. “So that is going to be an excellent alternative for the federal government to indicate its large distinction from the opposition events on a problem that has the help of the overwhelming majority of Greek society.”