Greek police clash with protesters over campus police plan

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University students clash with riot police during a rally in Athens, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. Police have used tear gas to disperse crowds at a rally in the Greek capital organized to protest plans to set up a state security division at university campuses. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Police have used tear gas to disperse crowds at a rally in Athens organized to protest plans to set up a state security division at university campuses.

Mass gatherings are banned under current lockdown rules imposed because of the pandemic, but members and supporters of student and left-wing groups joined a rally Thursday near parliament in central Athens.

Greece’s center-right government scrapped a decades-old ban on police entering university grounds, arguing the measure had been frequently exploited to organize violent protests and even criminal activity.

The government plans to set up a campus police division and limit entrance to university grounds to students, academic staff, employees and guests. Under the proposed changes, university entrance requirements will also be amended and time limits will be set for the completion of degree courses. Free access to university areas is seen by many Greeks as an important source of political dissent and which allowed resistance to be developed against authoritarian regimes in the past. The main left-wing opposition party, Syriza, is backing the education protests and has described the proposed reforms as undemocratic and aimed at making universities “sterile and unfree.”

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