Greece’s newly elected conservative New Democracy government overturned the law that made universities a no-gone zone for the police, arguing that the legislation had outlived its usefulness.
A stormy debate surrounding the new bill took place in Greek Parliament on Thursday with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stating that the 1982 law that had been put into place following military rule was now being taken advantage of and had turned campuses into dens of criminality.
The law had been put into place following a dictatorship when Greece’s Colonels sent a tank to push through a gate that had been bombarded by protesting students at Athens’ Polytechnic in 1973, causing the deaths of 23 students. The law was constructed so that students never again suffer from authoritarianism, however the 40-year law has seen drug addicts shooting up in daylight on campus, destruction of property and attacks on staff members who work at universities.
“We don’t want police in university. However, we do want to get rid of the hoodies who police the lives of students,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis said, referring to different groups who aren’t students and yet seek sanctuary in campus buildings, causing destruction to property.
“During a typical student’s life, he will see faculties controlled by a manner of different groups, drugs and basements full of petrol bombs and hoodies.”
Former Greek PM and left-wing SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras lambasted the move as a step to undermine the public nature of universities. The 45-year-old himself first came into the spotlight when he was involved in the occupation of a school as a teenager. He linked the abolition of the law to the government’s push for the privatisation of tertiary education.
The recently formed MeRA25 party, led by former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, abstained from the vote. The Communist Party of Greece voted “No”.
As lawmakers debated, fiery demonstrations took place in protest against the law.