On Thursday, January 21, countrywide rallies were organized in Greece by students and teachers demanding the reopening of the classes and massive investment in the sector to ensure safe classes. They also opposed the government’s proposal to militarize campuses. In Athens, thousands of students, along with teachers, marched to the parliament, raising slogans such as “We are defending our education and our future” and “We are fighting for the studies and education we need.” Members of students’ unions, including the Students Struggle Front (MAS), teachers’ unions, including the Federation of Secondary School Teachers of Greece (OLME), parents’ associations, All Workers Militant Front (PAME) and the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) participated in the march.
902.gr reported that mobilizations also took place in the cities of Thessaloniki, Patras, Kozani, Xanthi, Komotini, Ioannina, Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion, among others. The protesters denounced the conservative New Democracy (ND)-led government’s plan to create special contingents of police in universities. This plan has been widely criticized by the Greek communists and other progressive sections as a right-wing ploy to subjugate free speech, dissent and radical students politics within Greek campuses. Earlier in 2019, the ND government also revoked the prohibition on police from entering university spaces.
Greece has a great history of eventful student uprisings originating from university spaces, especially the glorious Athens Polytechnic Uprising of November 1973, which was a decisive moment in the struggle against the Greek military junta that had been in power since 1967. The right wing government’s plan for the establishment of the University Police and increased surveillance of academic spaces has been widely perceived as an attempt to thwart radical mobilizations from campuses against the anti-people policies of the government.
The Students Struggle Front (MAS) alleged that “the university that all the governments of recent years is constructing with their anti-education policies is [one that] crushes our dreams and needs.” MAS has also stated that the government which does not pay a penny for students is now earmarking 30 million euros (36.53 million USD) for the University Police, cameras and entrance cards. It said that with schools and universities closed, the government is trying to change the method of admission and is threatening thousands of students with expulsion.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) has expressed solidarity with the student protests and condemned the government’s plan for the establishment of the University Police.