Greece is burning


What began as a protest in Athens for the killing of a teenager has escalated to a full-blown crisis with tourists being urged to stay put in their rooms. Some 40 people have been injured and 37 policemen were hurt, while scores of businesses were destroyed in Athens and Thessaloniki, making the ongoing crisis Greece’s worst civil unrest in decades.

It all began Saturday after news spread that a teenager named Alexandros Andreas Grigoropoulos was killed by police in the Exarchia district of Athens. Protesters then took to the streets and overturned garbage cans and set them on fire. The protest quickly escalated and turned to full-scale rioting in dozens of cities including Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Corfu, Volos, Komotini, Chania, and several other Greek cities. In Athens alone, it is being reported that 13 police stations were damaged.

The Police Officers Association in Greece has apologized to the boy’s family, as did Greek President Karolos Papoulias, who sent a personal note via telegram to the boy´s parents expressing his condolences. “This death was a blow to the country,” President Papouliasm said. “I am certain that those responsible will be held to account.”

Varying accounts have surfaced regarding what transpired Saturday. Some witnesses claim that there was only a verbal exchange between the youths and police, and that the police officer shot was fired into the group. “It was cold-blooded murder,” a witness told a radio broadcaster.

The two officers have since been arrested and charged with manslaughter. Even so, Greek authorities are expecting more rioting in Athens as students and the Greek Communist Party are expected to hold protests. A 24-hour general strike is set for Wednesday, but many fear that the demonstrations could last for days.

Word of the teenager’s death quickly spread, and some protests have been reported in at least three other European cities – Berlin, Cyprus, and London. In Berlin, some 15 individuals reportedly raised an anarchist flag then occupied the Greek consulate, while British news agency SkyNews reports British authorities have arrested five men in London in connection with a protest that involved some 40 individuals.

British police confirmed the men were being held in custody for a variety of public order offenses, and that they were detained after taking part in a 40-strong protest outside the Greek Embassy in Holland Park, west London, SkyNews reported.

(With wire inputs)=