Dec 15, 2008
On December 6, a 15-year-old student named Alexandros Grigoropoulos was killed by a cop in Athens. That night he was out with other young friends when an argument broke out with police in a cop car. Most likely, as the discussion heated up, some bottles were thrown by the youth. But after the quarrel seemed to be over, two cops got out of their car and went after the group of youth. A cop fired, leaving one youth dying on the street.
According to two eye witnesses, there was no threat that could justify the use of arms: the youth was killed in cold blood. The news spread instantly all across Greece and, by the end of the night, many youth took their anger into the streets.
The Interior Minister in charge of the police, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, resigned, pushed to do so by the Prime Minister. Governmental circles, after saying that “all light” would be shed on the event, put forward the excuse that the killing was due to the “poor character” of the police officer, whom they nonetheless described as a serious professional and the father of three children. But a better explanation lies in the way the government trains and uses the police to maintain the “democratic order,” as it has been called since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974.
On the following day, December 7, the left-wing coalition called SY.RIZ.A, which received 5% of the vote in the last election and has seats in Parliament, met with other organizations to protest in front of the national archaeology museum. The turnout was massive, showing that significant parts of the population who were moved by this barbarous action, were ready to express their anger. A few minutes later as the march proceeded, youth labeled by the media “anti-power” groups broke off in small bands and started to break windows, burn cars and stores and attack banks and supermarkets, apparently convinced that this was the way to fight the “power.” Caught between the actions of the “anti-power” groups and the violent reaction of the police, the demonstrators quickly dispersed. For the rest of the day, the center of Athens became a battlefield between these groups and the police.
The demonstrations continued on Monday in major cities across Greece. Students took to the streets and in the afternoon there were protest demonstrations in Thessaloniki and Athens. In Athens, different leftwing organizations demonstrated together.
On December 9, there was again a large demonstration of students and teachers, who declared a three-day strike, close to the funeral procession of young Alexandros. Again there were clashes with the police.
At the same time as these demonstrations, there were new incidents of looting, of attacks on police stations, and of fires, apparently more intense than in previous days.
These actions may not open up much perspective for the youth. But the fact that so many young people took part, often beside union demonstrations, shows how the economic crisis and unemployment has driven many youth to despair.