Rally against university reforms turns violent

Thousands of students, teachers and university lecturers yesterday marched through the capital to reiterate their opposition to education reforms that would allow the creation of private universities, but their protest was marred by violence. The worst violence occurred outside the National Technical University of Athens, where about 200 youths clashed with riot police for more than two hours in the early afternoon. From their base inside the university grounds, the protesters threw petrol bombs at officers who responded by firing tear gas. One policeman suffered burns. There were also clashes near Syntagma Square where youths hurled rocks at a police barricade in front of Parliament. Officers responded with tear gas. Similar rallies were staged in Thessaloniki and other cities. Meanwhile, university faculties remained closed as professors staged a 24-hour strike and state schoolteachers held a series of work stoppages. Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos, a vociferous opponent of the proposed changes, participated in the demonstration. «The planned revision of Article 16 (of the Constitution) will not happen,» he said. «Everyone wants state universities that are high quality, free and open to all pupils who finish high school.» There were also several outbursts of violence in central Athens on Tuesday night but there was no indication that these were fueled by objection to education reforms. In the worst incident, around 30 youths attacked riot police with stones and flares in Exarchia. Meanwhile a guard at the Hellenic American Union, in the city center, said he was threatened by motorcyclists wielding gasoline bombs. He said they fled after he threw a flare at them.

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