A sanctuary for dissent in Greece?
Greek law keeps police away from universities, but some fear the immunity clause meant to protect free speech is now being used to harbor bastions of violence.
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The Polytechnic, which lies on the border of the edgy neighborhood of Exarchia, where the 15-year-old was killed, is serving as the heart and brain center of the revolt.Skip to next paragraph
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There, anarchists – many of whom call Exarchia their home – are helping to organize students and other young people. The area just outside its gates has been the site of some of the most intense clashes with police. Inside, protesters regroup and rearm around bonfires that burn through the night.
There's an air of menace outside the Polytechnic. But Stergia Sarantopoulou, an architecture student there who has been participating in protests, says the mood is angry but collegial. Like many students, she passionately defends the asylum law.
"There are historical, political, ideological reasons for the immunity to exist," she says. "Universities are our home. It's the students home; it's the teachers home."
The university safe-haven policy might at times be abused, Ms. Sarantopoulou says, but in the long run society is better off by having a law that forever ensures a safe place for free speech.
"It's much more harmful for the state to control [universities,]" she says.
The explosion of rioting and looting that took place in the aftermath of Alexandros's death has faded in recent days, but there are still daily protests, many of which end in hails of rocks and flaming Molotov cocktails. On Saturday, the one-week anniversary of the shooting, the protests were largely peaceful, though still angry.
In daylight, a fragile normality began to return to the city center, with shops again opening and people returning to work. But at night, uncertain Athenians stayed away from the normally bustling city center, which was ghostly quiet. Groups of young people roamed the streets across central Athens, shouting: "This night is for Alexi!"
A heavy cloud of tear gas and smoke hung over Exarchia, which felt like a rebel-held enclave in a city at war. Police lingered warily on its edges as young people set up burning barricades and attacked government buildings and banks. And clashes erupted once again outside the Polytechnic.
Few here think the unrest will end anytime soon, and the rage of Greece's youth continues to smolder. The death of Alexandros's has tapped into anger about a range of broader complaints – about corruption, nepotism, a failing education system, and the poor economic prospects of young people, including unemployment rates in the 25 percent range.
Protests are expected to continue throughout the week, with activists calling for roads to be blocked nationwide on Tuesday. They say they want to bring down Greece's whole political system – it's not just the current government that is seen as tainted, most believe the main opposition is little better. The protesters, however, struggle to articulate exactly what they want in its place.
"Don't bend your head down," they chanted as they confronted police recently in front of parliament. "The only way is resistance."
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.