Education bill rally results in more violence

Thousands of students, teachers and university lecturers marched through the capital yesterday in yet another protest at education reforms, but their demonstration was marred by some of the worst violence since the government announced its plans to shake up the country’s university system. Meanwhile in Parliament, MPs voted on constitutional reforms aimed at paving the way for the creation of private universities but failed to achieve the two-thirds vote sought by the government due to a walkout by opposition PASOK. Anarchist youths who broke away from a peaceful demonstration near the Parliament building shortly after 2 p.m. hurled rocks and petrol bombs at riot police officers, who responded by firing tear gas. No injuries were reported but there was widespread damage – to traffic surveillance cameras, cars and storefronts. One rioter was arrested, prompting youths to march to police headquarters on Alexandras Avenue and demand his release late last night. Some rioters even used sledgehammers to break flower pots and marble walls into pieces, which they threw at police. After the trouble near Parliament, around 300 youths took refuge in the National Technical University of Athens, emerging at regular intervals to throw more petrol bombs at police and to torch some garbage dumpsters. Similar rallies took place in Thessaloniki and other Greek cities yesterday but there were no reports of large-scale violence. Representatives of left-wing student factions yesterday stressed that they would continue their protests as more than 300 university faculties across the country remained under occupation by students. Such a move would facilitate the ongoing strike action by the Panhellenic Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (POSDEP), which is due to decide its next move today. However, there were some objections yesterday from youth groups concerned about the impact of ongoing strikes on students’ prospects for completing their degrees. The youth arm of ruling New Democracy, ONNED, accused left-wing factions within student unions of using coercive tactics to ensure that university sit-ins continue.