On September 16, 2022, student protesters and riot police (MAT) clashed violently on the campus of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The students were protesting the recent deployment of university police, known as University Institutions Protection Teams or OPPI, onto campus following acts of vandalism targeting the construction of a university library and a series of related violent incidents, including clashes between campus protesters and police.
During the September 16 protest, a subset of protesters threw eggs and other objects at OPPI and MAT officers. MAT officers then began to hit the protesters with batons, cornered them, and used a chemical irritant (presumably pepper spray) against them. In a YouTube video, MAT officers are seen charging into the crowd of protesters.
Three protesters were detained; two of them were charged with disturbing the peace. All three were released the next day.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a student protest. While police have a responsibility to maintain order, security, and safety, they must do so in a manner that is proportionate and not intended to retaliate against the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Likewise, while students and others have the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise those rights peacefully and responsibly.
Correction Note: SAR has updated this report to clarify the sequence of events during the protest (the original report did not note that protesters began throwing objects prior to the police response) and provide background regarding the deployment of OPPI officers on campus. SAR also removed the erroneous designation of a wrongful imprisonment incident.