Athens march to mark fatal shooting turns violent

Riot police on the streets of Thessaloniki. Picture: Reuters
Riot police on the streets of Thessaloniki. Picture: Reuters
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A MARCH in Athens to mark the anniversary of the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager turned violent, as marchers damaged storefronts and bus stations and started fires.

Clashes continued late into the night on Saturday in the neighbourhood of Exarchia, a popular area for extreme leftists and anarchists. Youths ambushing police forces. Fire bombs and rocks were thrown from ­balconies.

Police said they detained 211 people.

Clashes also broke out between police and demonstrators in the northern city of Thessaloniki. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades after a crowd attacked two plain clothes officers.

The marches were commemorating the 6 December, 2008, police killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in the capital, which led to two weeks of the most violent rioting Greece had seen in decades. The teenager and his friends were involved in an argument with two police officers when one officer went to his patrol car, retrieved his gun and shot the youth.

His killer, police officer Epaminondas Korkoneas, is serving a life sentence.

On Saturday, about 5,000 people marched in Athens, passing the Greek parliament and heading toward the spot where Mr Grigoropoulos was killed, police said. At one point, people broke into a Zara clothes shop, took racks of clothes into the street and burned them.

The clashes were soon confined to Exarchia as police cordoned off the neighbourhood’s central square, firing tear gas and pepper spray.

The protests come at a sensitive time for the government, which is negotiating to make an early exit from an unpopular European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout programme that has meant years of austerity for Greeks.

At a shrine at the spot where Mr Grigoropoulos was shot dead, mourners left roses and notes.

‘I’m leaving this red flower, red like your blood spilled on the pavement,’ read one note. A banner was unfurled reading ‘When the state murders, resistance is demanded.’

The government had appealed for calm in the days leading up to the protest and submitted an amendment to parliament allowing prisoners to follow university courses via distance learning.

One of Mr Grigoropoulos’ friends, jailed anarchist and convicted bank robber Nikos Romanos, 21, who was present when Mr Grigoropoulos was killed, is now on hunger strike, demanding prison leave to attend lectures after he passed university entrance exams.

Romanos, who is in hospital and under police guard, has been on the hunger strike since last month, and doctors have said his health is failing. He was jailed with three young men following a February 2013 bank robbery in which they took a hostage as they tried to escape.

Romanos said: “I won’t back down. My response is: struggle until victory or struggle until death.”