Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

A policeman shot and killed a 15-year-old, unarmed boy in Athens, which set off injury causing, property damaging and peaceful protests

December 21, 2008

ALEXANDROS.GRIGOROPOULOS.DIED.DEC.6.2008

ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS

On the night of Friday, December 6, 2008, in a popular district in Athens called Exarcheia, 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by police.  

A fellow student at Psychiko Public High School named Nikos witnessed his friend’s killing.  An interview of Nikos was translated from Greek to English and published at: http://www.anarkismo.net/article/10959

Nikos said Alexandros’ nickname was Gregory.  He and Nikos planned to meet at Mesolongi Street in Exarcheia after Niko attended a polo match.  At 7:10 p.m. Alexandros phoned Nikos to advise that the match was over and he was going to start out for Exarcheia. 

Nikos arrived at Exarcheia less than five minutes before Alexandros.  They went to a convenience store to get something to eat and some soft drinks.  They went out to the sidewalk on Mesologgiou Street to eat and talk. 

While eating their food at the intersection of Mesolongi and Tzavelia, they heard a loud bang.  “Near enough to us that we could hear it, but far enough away that we couldn’t figure out what had happened,” Nikos said.  “We didn’t pay any attention.”  But within two minutes, four or five persons passed by and said that “the cops are coming, something happened . . . .”

Nikos said that out of curiosity they went to the middle of Tzavelia Street to see what happened.

When we went out into the middle of the walkway, we saw from a distance of 15 to 20 meters two police officers. . . . Next they stopped at the intersection . . .  .  There was no one else, Alexandros was in front of me and I was behind and to the right of them. . . . Someone from behind me tossed an empty plastic bottle and naturally it did not reach the police. . . . When I saw the police, they started to curse at me and Alexandros, saying “We will f— the Virgin Mary, come here and I’ll show you who is the tough guy'” and things like that.  The guys behind us were yelling “get back” and “go to hell” at the  police.

When someone threw the plastic bottle, the police . . . took their weapons out of their holsters, aimed in front of them, that  is toward the place where I, Alexandros and the other person were, and three continuous shots were heard. . . . They aimed towards our location  and  fired!

Alexandros fell down . . . on  the first or second gunshot . . . .  People were yelling and some people lifted up Alexandros’ shirt.  I saw that he had a hole in the middle of the chest and a little toward the heart.  There was blood from the wound.

Let me tell you also that the police who fired, when they saw Alexandros fall, they left. . . . Then the ambulance came and took Alexandros, dead.  I say this because he didn’t have a pulse and there was blood coming from his mouth.

Since Alexandros’ death, there has been civil unrest in Athens.

“It began with one death, one bullet, fired in anger by a hot-headed policemen [sic] in the heart of Athens’ edgy Exarcheia district on last Saturday,” wrote Helen Smith in The Observer on the website of the London newspaper Guardian.  “No one thought they would wake up to a revolt in the streets.  But the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos . . . was the match that lit the inferno.”

“This was only the latest instance of police brutality against immigrants, and left-wing and anarchist activists — especially youth, in the wake of a major youth resistance movement against privatization of education that rattled the right-wing government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis,” wrote Panos Petrou in the December 18, 2008 edition of Counterpunch.

“The [young man’s] murder triggered an immediate reaction,” wrote George Yorgos.  “Thousands of angry young protesters fed up with continuous unpunished police violence seized the center of Athens in a manner of  hours.”

In a December 14, 2008 report, Ms. Smith stated that Greece was in week two “of pitched battles between rock-throwing protesters and riot police — with security forces turning to Israel and Germany to replenish depleted reserves of toxic gases to contain the angry crowds . . . .”

Ms. Smith added:

[T]he orgy of violence that has gripped this beautiful land masks a deeper malaise.  It is a sickness that starts not so much at the top but at the bottom of Greek society, in the ranks of its troubled youth.  For many these are a lost generation, raised in an education system that is undeniably shambolic and hit by whopping levels of unemployment (70 percent among the 18-25s) in a country where joblessness this month jumped to 7.4 per cent.  . . . One in five Greeks lives beneath the poverty line.  Exposed to the ills of Greek society as never before, they have become increasingly frustrated witnesses of allegations of corruption implicating senior conservative government officials and a series of scandals that have so far cost four ministers their jobs.

 On the night of the 15-year-old boy’s death and thereafter tens of  thousands of persons of persons have demonstrated on the streets of Athens.  They have also demonstrated in Thessaloniki, Patras and in smaller towns and villages. 

“While most of the protests have been peaceful, the tone of the demonstrations has been set by a violent fringe, with more young people willing to join such elements than in the past,” wrote Jenny Percival in the December 14, 2008 edition of Guardian.

“In the end, the violence that we use is minimal in comparison to the violence the system uses, like the banks,” said Paris Kyriakides, who identified herself as an anarchist.

“The police attacked the demonstrations, using chemical sprays and tear gas,” wrote Mr. Petrou, a member of the Workers International Left (DEA by its initials in Greek).  “The demonstrators resisted by building barricades and bonfires all night long in the center of Athens.”

The protesters targeted police stations and banks.  More than 30 banks were set on fire along with large stores and public buildings.

“Armed with Molotov cocktails and stones, the demonstrators attacked symbols of police, setting patrol cars, banks and department stores on fire in the angriest riots to erupt in Greece in years,” wrote Mr. Yorgos.

Eleftherotypia, a Greek newspaper, reported that during the past 10 years 70 persons were killed by police.

“The demonstrators made their objectives known: By targeting the police departments, they were attacking the government’s authoritarian policy of repression,” Mr.  Petrou wrote.  “By targeting the banks, they were attacking the symbols of capitalism to show their anger with neoliberal policy.”

The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) was a primary organizers of some demonstrations.

“The hatred of police repression and the country’s rich was everywhere,” Mr. Petrou wrote.

Alekos Alavanos, the head of SYRIZA, met with Prime Minister Karamanlis.  Instead of coming out of the meeting with a plea for the protesters to stop, Mr. Alavanos urged people to continue to work to topple the Karamanlis government.  Mr. Alavanos also demanded that the government give a “real apology” to Greek youth, disarm the police, end the privatization of education and increase employment opportunities for youth.

The Communist Party of Greece , through party secretary Aleka Papariga, criticized SYIZA for supporting the anarchists.  PASOK, the social democratic party led by Georgios Papandreou, denounced murder, police oppression and the demonstrations.  PASOK proposed candlelight vigils.

“DEA is participating enthusiastically in the resistance movement,” wrote Mr. Petrou.  “We support the unity of the young demonstrators fighting against repression and the workers and their unions fighting against exploitation.”

“The right-wing government [of Karamanlis] is headed toward its downfall,” wrote Mr. Petrou.  “Every opinion poll shows that is has already suffered a huge loss of support after the outbreak of big corruption scandals revolving around illegal sales of public land in collaboration with the church.”

Mr. Karamanlis’ government has a majority by only one vote.

The protests are for not just the killing of Alexandros Grigoropoulos but also for “a struggle to overthrow government’s policy,” said Panagiotis Sotiri, a spokesman for a coalition of leftist groups called Uniting Anti-Capitalist Left.  “We are experiencing moments of a great social revolution.”

The policeman who shot and killed Mr. Grigoropoulos is now in jail on a charge of murder.   He alleges that he fired a warning shot in self-defense.  The policeman who was with him was charged as an accomplice.  The lawyer for Mr. Grigoropoulos disputed the claim of self-defense and said that the policeman aimed to kill without significant provocation.

Photographs of the conflict with captions are found at: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/12/2008_greek_riots.html

THE COFFIN OF ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS IS CARRIED AT A FUNERAL ON DEC. 9, 2008 IN THE OUTSKIRTS OF ATHENS

THE COFFIN OF ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS IS CARRIED AT A FUNERAL ON DEC. 9, 2008 IN THE OUTSKIRTS OF ATHENS

A slide show depicting the social unrest in Greece is at: http://www.slide.com/r/mJUgZRxc0T9LgaGmy3h6C7RBw6ciaAFb?cy=bb

Photo Credits:

Coffin carried by mourners photo: Reuters (Oleg Popov)

Policeman in flames photo: Associated Press (Lefteris Pitarakis)

A MEMORIAL FOR ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS NEAR THE AREA WHERE HE WAS KILLED IN ATHENS.

A MEMORIAL FOR ALEXANDROS GRIGOROPOULOS NEAR THE AREA WHERE HE WAS KILLED IN ATHENS.

A GREEK RIOT POLICEMAN IS ENGULFED IN FLAMES FROM A PROTESTER'S PETRO BOMB ON DEC. 12, 2008 IN ATHENS

A GREEK RIOT POLICEMAN IS ENGULFED IN FLAMES FROM A PROTESTER'S PETRO BOMB ON DEC. 12, 2008 IN ATHENS

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