Students, police rumble in latest protest marches

In a resort hotel south of Athens, education ministers from the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) debated the need for university education reform, reaching a consensus that state-funded universities, as we know them, represented a «failed» model. Outside the hotel and in the streets of Athens, students who want to preserve the monopoly of state universities, with a single textbook per course, usually written by the course’s instructor, rioted and clashed with police. The incidents were far more serious in the center of Athens, where a minority of hooded, self-styled «anarchists» threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police and, taking advantage of the so-called «academic sanctuary» laws, occupied Athens University’s Law School building for about three hours. They also used trash cans as makeshift barricades outside the schools and set fire to the garbage as well as to several wooden chairs stolen from nearby cafes. A TV cameraman was taken to hospital with second-degree burns from a fire bomb and five policemen were slightly injured. The rioters left the building at about 6.30 p.m., mixed with students meeting inside, and managed to escape the police. According to police sources, the anarchists bent on mayhem numbered no more than 150 out of the 2,000 demonstrators who began their march at 2.30 p.m. Using tear gas, the police managed to prevent extensive damage to shops and offices in the city center. About 50 of the anarchists went on to occupy the Law School building. At Lagonissi, a resort 42 kilometers south of Athens, 300 students and Communist party members or sympathizers gathered to protest the OECD ministers meeting. There were some scuffles when the demonstrators tried to get closer to the hotel and police used tear gas. The demonstrators dispersed peacefully afterward. Opposition parties protested the police stopping 10 buses carrying student demonstrators from Thessaloniki outside Athens. They allowed the buses to proceed to Athens, escorted by patrol cars. Inside the hotel, the OECD education ministers debated ways to reform higher education. It was agreed that there will be four types of higher institutions in the future: open schools offering online education, local universities, mixed-funded schools and «enterprise universities» selling their services. «The debate on education is often hot. Witness Athens today,» said the OECD’s newly appointed secretary-general, Angel Gurria. Greek university students have occupied more than 400 faculties across the country to protest the government’s reform proposals. The protests will end this month to allow final-year students to take their exams in September.

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