ATHENS — Growing violence on Greek campuses will be addressed, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said in a pledge to stamp out offenders who are allowed to stay in school despite causing trouble.
As some 400 security guards are being trained and will be deployed later in the spring to a number of universities, students and critics are protesting the plan, with clashes in Thessaloniki with riot police.
Universities are also the scene of occupations that have been allowed for years without intervention and a law professor in Athens has quit, disgusted by conditions at schools where hallways are covered in graffiti and troublemakers are allowed to roam and some teachers attacked.
A professor giving a lecture in an auditorium of the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB – who would be prosecuted for alleged crimes – was assaulted by a group of hooded attackers.
New Democracy ended asylum on college campuses and said it would step up a crackdown on unrest, and Mitsotakis told Antenna TV after the latest incidents that the rule of law would prevail.
He said trespassers and offenders will be kept out and punished even ‘if police have to visit universities more often to evacuate occupants’, with Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos ordering them to enter. .
Mitsotakis said students have been allowed for too long to occupy schools and commit acts of violence with impunity and that his government will end this after years of leniency from previous governments, including the New Democracy.
Mitsotakis, however, admitted to Saif Kathimerini that there had been delays in setting up campus security forces and plans to set up turnstiles, demand
“Implementing it has proven to be a more complex exercise,” he said, while insisting the plan will go ahead despite vehement opposition, including from some academics. who want no security on school grounds.
He said the government needed the cooperation of school authorities, many of whom have been reluctant to help for fear of the backlash from students who don’t have to go to class or graduate and who aren’t being punished for wrongdoing.
Mitsotakis said rectors “have an obligation, by law, to prepare security plans for universities,” adding that “they must also understand that they have an obligation to the institutions they serve. , to cooperate with the State so that these phenomena end, once and for all.”
He proposed the creation of a disciplinary body for students who engage in lawlessness. “Somebody who keeps coming in (on college grounds) and breaking things (can’t be allowed) to stay a student,” he said, without explaining why he’s not expelled or that the government does not order university officials in public schools to follow orders.
One of the promises he made in winning the July 7, 2019 snap election and ousting the then-ruling radical leftist SYRIZA – made up of veterans of university occupations and disobedience – was to clean up campuses.
Anarchists and demonstrators in Thessaloniki marched to protest the police clearing of a squat in the basement of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki last month after 34 years.
Police said a group attacked riot police with rocks and petrol bombs who responded with tear gas. Protesters did not attempt to reclaim the squat, and video shows one protester’s clothes catching fire when he slipped and fell on flames from Molotov cocktails thrown during the clashes.