Tension at Athens universities ahead of anniversary

Police used stun grenades and tear gas in central Athens on Thursday night to disperse students protesting the decision to close universities in the capital several days ahead of the anniversary of the bloody November 17 uprising against the junta at Athens Polytechnic in 1973.

There was tension from the morning when students at Athens University found the doors closed and riot police guarding the institution. An attempt by the riot squad to move protesters who had gathered outside the university away from the building led to two students suffering injuries.

Kathimerini understands that university authorities had asked for the main building, as well as the Law School and the Athens University of Economics and Business, to be guarded from Wednesday night amid concern about students holding sit-ins to mark the November 17 anniversary. The buildings are to remain shut until Monday.

Students held several peaceful marches in the city center to protest the closures. However, riot police intervened in the evening when some students attempted to enter the grounds of the Technical University of Athens (the former Polytechnic) to hold a general assembly that had been called by student groups. They used batons and chemicals to force the students away from the building.

The day’s events also caused arguments in Parliament, where SYRIZA criticized the decision to close the universities. “This autocratic stance is a provocation toward our youth, the anti-dictatorial struggles and democracy,” said party spokesman Panos Skourletis.

“You are for terrorism, sit-ins and lawlessness,” responded New Democracy MP Costas Markopoulos.

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