Prosecutor takes action over anti-migrant protest at school

21 February 2017
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A prosecutor in Thessaloniki has demanded the arrest of all the “protagonists” in a violent incident outside an elementary school on Monday, sparked by a group protesting the attendance of nine migrant children from a nearby refugee camp.

First Instance Thessaloniki Prosecutor Lambros Tsongas also called on Tuesday for an investigation into the violence, which started when a group calling itself the “Patriotic Union of Greek Citizens of Oraiokatsro” gathered outside the town’s First Elementary School, shouting racist slurs and protesting a scheme to induct migrant children from camps into the Greek public school system as the pupils came out of class.

The same school has been the site of previous protests by far-right proponents trying to block the scheme, with members of the so-called Patriotic Union staging rallies and chaining themselves to the courtyard fence.

The group’s aggressive presence on Monday sparked reactions from pro-migrant activists, as well as parents and local residents who support the plan and took objection to the racist slurs. Scuffles followed, with one member of the group having to be taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The prosecutor’s response came after the Education Ministry’s general secretary, Yiannis Pantis, told ANA-MPA radio that steps are being taken to avert similar incidents in the future.

He said that Education Minister Costas Gavroglou had spoken with his counterpart at the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, Nikos Toskas, and requested a permanent police presence outside the Oraiokastro school to prevent anyone unrelated to the school from coming within 100 meters of its grounds.

“The continued challenges by minority far-right elements, members of the self-proclaimed ‘Patriotic Union of Greek Citizens of Oraiokastro,’ who with racist banners and slogans are trying to spread hatred against defenseless children, will not pass,” ruling party SYRIZA said in a statement in response to Monday’s incident.

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