by Aggelos Skordas
Tensions were high in Athens on Wednesday night following a peaceful demonstration marking the ninth anniversary of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos’ killing by a police officer. When the protest march of some 2,500 people was coming to an end near Omonoia Square in central Athens, a small group of protestors moved towards the neighbourhood of Exarcheia, where violent clashes took place with riot police. Youths of the antiestablishment movement set up fiery barricades using wheelie dumpsters and other material while hurling stones, flares and Molotov petrol bombs to police forces, who responded with an extended use of tear gas and stun grenades.
The clashes started at around 8pm local time and lasted for more than three hours. The violence erupted on the corner of Mesolongiou and Tzavella Street, where Grigoropoulos was shot dead by a police officer in 2008, and spread to nearby Stournari, Tositsa, Bouboulinas, Zaimi, Notara, George and Kallidromiou streets and around the historic Athens Polytechnic School. A total of three cars were burned while more were damaged. Police forces detained 23 people during the incidents. In total, more than 3,000 police were deployed across the Greek capital as authorities tried to contain the violence ahead of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit scheduled for Thursday.
Earlier student protestors wearing hoods and helmets smashed window displays of central commercial stores and banks. Police formed cordons outside the Greek Parliament and central hotels on Syntagma Square to prevent them from attacking. “These days belong to Alexis”, “The bullet did not fall by accident, keep your hands off the youth” and “Money for the banks – Bullets for the youth” were among the protestors’ chants. Demonstrations commemorating Grigoropoulos were also held in Thessaloniki, Patras and other major Greek cities.
Fifteen-year-old schoolboy Alexandros Grigoropoulos was with a group of friends in Exarcheia, on Saturday December 6, 2008, when on duty police officer Epaminondas Korkoneas fired shots against them following a brief verbal confrontation. One of them left Grigoropoulos fatally injured lying in a pool of blood. What started as a routine patrol in downtown Athens triggered the most violent series of events in Greece’s modern history, following the fall of the military junta in 1974. Two years later, Korkoneas was sentenced to life imprisonment for premeditated murder and his partner, Vassilis Saraliotis, to 10 years in prison as an accomplice to murder.
*Images by Aggelos Skordas (Copyright)