On October 11, 2019, police and students clashed violently during a protest march over proposed educational reforms and the abolition of the country’s university asylum law.
Sixteen Athens-based student unions reportedly organized a rally to voice their disapproval of several reforms that had recently been proposed by the country’s Ministry of Education as well as the recent abolition of a so-called university asylum law that, among other things, banned police from entering university campuses.
Several hundred student protesters reportedly marched peacefully along a road in central Athens leading towards Greek Parliament. Police had reportedly parked several buses to block their access to the area around Parliament. According to video footage, several students began striking police vans with flags they had been carrying. Police responded by firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the protesters. Students dispersed shortly thereafter.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a student protest. While students have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise those rights peacefully and responsibly. State authorities likewise have a responsibility to ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not harm members of the higher education community, and are not undertaken to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.