As the seventh anniversary of the killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a policeman approaches, thousands of police brace for a night of riots and vandalism.
The sixth of December of 2008 event triggered the most violent uproar Athens has seen in decades. Every year, the black anniversary is marked by guerrilla warfare between police and anarchist youths, resulting in injuries and damages to state and private property.
It was a little before 9:00 on the evening of December 6, 2008, when Grigoropoulos and his friends were sitting in a corner at Exarcheia and exchanged swear words with two policemen in a passing patrol car.
A little later, the two policemen; Epaminondas Korkoneas and Vasilis Saraliotis returned to the scene on foot. Trigger happy Korkoneas pulled out his pistol and shot Grigoropoulos. The young man died a few minutes later in his friend’s lap. His friend was Nikos Romanos.
The two policemen returned to the Exarcheia police station and reported that they had been attacked by anarchists. They didn’t report the shooting.
Within a few hours, hundreds of young people took to the streets of Exarcheia and started burning trash containers, cars, bus stops. The word spread all over Athens and more youths joined the riots. Soon more fires broke out all over Athens as more and more people clashed with riot police (MAT).
All the pent-up youth frustration and the feeling that this was a police killing that would probably go unpunished, started a guerrilla war on the streets of central Athens. Rallies against police brutality took place in several cities in Greece, followed by battles with the police. Athens was literally set on fire. Several embassies issued warnings for the protection of their citizens and pictures of the burning city spread throughout the world. BBC talked about an insurrection.
Efforts on behalf of Korkoneas to justify his crime and his defense attorney to put the blame on the behavior of Grigoropoulos added more fuel to the fire and more riots ensued. The justice ministry and Greek police decided to transfer the trial to Amfissa so that there would be no more riots in Athens.
The mixed jury in Amfissa decided that Korkoneas was guilty of premeditated murder and the policeman received a life sentence. Saraliotis received ten years for accessory to murder.
Despite the policeman’s punishment, December 6 has been unofficially established among anarchists as remembrance day for Alexandros Grigoropoulos and every year since is marked with clashes with the police and anarchists seeking to set things ablaze.
This year’s anniversary is marked by a statement issued by Grigoropoulos’ friend, Nikos Romanos. The 22-year-old is serving time for armed robbery. Romanos wanted to avenge his friend’s death and started an armed anarchist group to fight against the state. In an attempt to finance their struggle, the group attempted to rob a bank. The robbery failed, Romanos and his accomplices were arrested and now Romanos is in prison.
In mid-November, Romanos issued a long statement from Korydallos Prison, calling all anarchists and young people to declare war against the state and the middle class. The statement, uploaded by an anarchist website calls for arson of state buildings, banks, and police stations. It is a call to arms using vitriolic language against anyone who does not believe in anarchy. Romanos speaks of a “black December” full of “blood and fire.”
After Romanos’ call to arms, only a few minor incidents have taken place such as the occasional molotov cocktail thrown at a police station or a bank.
As for the critical night of December 6, Greek police are preparing for another night of fires, petrol bombs, vandalism and destruction. At least 6,000 policemen are mobilized so far.
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