On the night of September 16, 2022, riot police (MAT) used violent, excessive force during their response to an incident at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The incident occurred towards the end of a concert that attracted thousands of spectators, mostly students. Sources indicate that a group of spectators broke away from the concert and confronted MAT officers who were stationed near the biology department to guard the construction of a library. (The library’s construction had been repeatedly vandalized by opponents and protests were organized, including earlier that day, to oppose the on-campus presence of MAT officers and a new campus police force deployed in response to the vandalism.) Spectators who confronted the officers reportedly threw rocks and other unspecified objects at them. MAT officers reportedly responded by firing tear gas and chase them back towards the concert site. MAT officers continued their pursuit into the concert area and reportedly began firing tear gas around the audience, panicking concertgoers and causing many to flee.
Clashes continued outside the campus when a large group of spectators took to the street to protest the police response. MAT officers fired tear gas, stun grenades, and a water cannon, while a number of the protesters threw rocks and molotov cocktails at police and set fire to garbage cans.
Police arrested four individuals that night. An unspecified number of individuals were injured.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by police using disproportionate force in response to an on-campus incident. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain safety and order, they must also exercise restraint and ensure that their actions are proportionate and do not endanger members of the campus community or others. Students and other civilians are also reminded to refrain from physical violence on campus and to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly peacefully and responsibly.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)