On June 2, 2022, riot police clashed with students during a protest at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH).
In December 2021, police vacated an anarchist group that had occupied the Department of Biology building on the AUTH campus for years. In April, 2022, AUTH began building a library at the site of the Department of Biology building. At the request of AUTH officials, police have been stationed on campus for the duration of the construction of the library. For months, students, faculty, and other groups unaffiliated with the university have protested the police presence and the construction of the library.
Students holding red flags marched around campus and towards riot police (members of a special unit known as the Units for the Reinstatement of Order, or “MAT”) stationed near the library. Available sources do not specify what sparked the clashes between students and the MAT forces. MAT forces fired tear gas and flash grenades at students while students threw stones at MAT forces. The tear gas reportedly affected students and professors in classrooms near the clashes. Three journalists and two police officers reportedly sustained injuries during the clashes. MAT forces arrested four students for “disturbing the peace,” “damage,” “attempted bodily harm,” and “possession of weapons.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during an on-campus student protest. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and safety, they should also exercise restraint and ensure that their actions are proportionate and do not endanger members of the campus community. Likewise, while students have rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise those rights peacefully and responsibly, refraining from physical violence.