Rioting explodes across Greece

A powder keg of public anger over government economic policy has been ignited by a spark of outrage over the killing of a 15-year-old boy by police in Athens.

Submitted by Steven. on December 8, 2008

For updates and background, see our Greece unrest archive:

Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot dead by police in the Exarchia area, an anarchist stronghold of Greece's capital city on Saturday 6 December.

Police claimed that they fired in the air when their police vehicle came under attack by a group of youths, but eyewitnesses told Greek television that they fired directly at the boy's chest, and that they were not under attack.

Thousands poured into the streets in the surrounding area and several other cities around the country.

Police officers and buildings came under attack by crowds wielding rocks, metal bars and petrol bombs, and dozens of businesses were burned-out.

The rioting has since spread, including to the holiday islands of Corfu and Crete, and continued daily.

High school and university occupations are now widespread, and university professors have now gone on strike. Elsewhere, many high school students have boycotted classes.

The killing comes against a background of a 48 hour strike of nurses, and on the eve of a general strike this Wednesday 10 December against the government's economic reforms.

The events constitute what is now one of the biggest public outbreaks of disorder in decades.

The rioters
Much of the press has blamed the rioting on anarchists, who constitute a significant political force in Greece, especially amongst young people and students.

However, while it is true that anarchists instigated some of the fighting they have been joined by large swathes of workers and young people in particular. Other groups, such as football fans have also participated in the clashes.

Public anger at the slaying - only the most recent incident of what is habitual police brutality - has intersected with widespread discontent at neoliberal reforms and the widening gap between rich and poor, being exacerbated by government policy.

One participant, Sotev, commented on our forums:
"Let me comment that these are not - and could not be, given the magnitude of the 'misdeeds' - the acts of the 'anarchists' doing their thing. Of course anarchists... are on the front lines everywhere, but these acts are social. It's not just about the murder or the state repression: there's a growing feeling of revolt, against the ecomony, against the poverty, against the lost jobs etc. that had to break out somehow."*

Greece-based blogger "Teacher Dude" stated:
"Although violent scenes are not uncommon in Greece the extent, duration and intensity of the riots seems to have taken the authorities by surprise. In addition the fact that many of those who took in protest marches were neither young nor students is indicative of the fact that the death of the teenager has angered many Greeks. Case in point was the pensioner, who stood in front of a phalanx of riot police, apoplectic with rage shouting, "cops, killer, pigs" during the march in Thessaloniki."

The working class
Working people and their families bear the brunt of the everyday violence of Greek police.

In recent weeks, a police HQ in Volos was attacked in response to a police violence, and barricades were erected after police attacked immigrants. This itself came only days after they killed a Pakistani asylum seeker and fought with textile workers who hadn't been paid .

On top of that, Greek workers have been escalating resistance to attacks on pensions, labour rights and education.

Wednesday's general strike follows a previous national stoppage in October , and two earlier general strikes .

Walkouts by bank workers and the recent strikes of students and nurses, which have involved occupations and the holding hostage of government ministers are have also rocked the government, already in a precarious position by having a majority of just one.

More information
Discussion on the events in our forums:

Teacher Dude blog:

* Text slightly edited by libcom for better translation