Shooting of Greek youth sparks national rebellion
Posted by raleighfist on December 20, 2008
Two cops in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens, Greece, gunned down 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Dec. 6. Hours after the shooting, young people in Athens began to rebel against the cops. The next day the rebellions began to spread to other major cities, including to Thessaloniki—the second largest city—to the north and the island of Crete to the south.
Stunned by the rebellions that erupted after the killing of the unarmed youth, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis responded by arresting the two cops involved. Since the arrests, the shooter, Epaminondas Korkoneas, has been charged with voluntary homicide and his partner with being an accomplice.
With the arrests and charges the right-wing government was attempting to stop the rebellions. These have continued, however, along with mass protests and a general strike that had already been planned, but has added demands regarding the murder of Grigoropoulus.
Not even the false sympathy of Karamanlis, who said, “Like all Greeks I am deeply saddened,” nor an apology from the Police Association could cease what had been long brewing.
The police and the government have tried to portray the incident as isolated. At times they indicated that the shooting was a mistake. The cops’ story blames the youth, justifying the killing by claiming they were merely defending themselves from attack.
A friend of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was at his side when the young man was killed, tells a different story. According to the friend, Nikos R., “When someone threw the plastic bottle, the police, both of them if I am not mistaken, took their weapons out of their holsters, aimed in front of them, that is towards the place where I, Alexandros and the other person were, and three continuous shots were heard. I forgot to tell you that I am sure that one of the two police officers held his weapon with both hands. I saw then—and I am absolutely sure—that the police weren’t shooting either towards the sky or towards the ground. They aimed towards our location and fired!
“Alexandros fell down, if I am not mistaken, on the first or second gunshot, surely anyways before the third. … Afterwards, I didn’t know what was going on. People were yelling and some people lifted up Alexandros’ shirt. I saw that he had a hole in the middle of the chest and a little towards the heart. There was blood from the wound.”
Nikos ends his statement to the interviewer with, “The only thing I want to tell you is that they didn’t kill Alexandros. They murdered him in cold blood.” (athens.indymedia.org)
There is little doubt that the masses of workers and students in Greece see the killing as Alexandros’ friend did and that this viewpoint is what sparked the insurrections across all of Greece and initiated solidarity actions in countries throughout Europe and in other parts of the world.
However, the killing of Grigoropoulus is not the sole cause of the rebellions. It may have been the catalyst to the violence at the moment, but if the insurrection’s primary goal was to seek the arrest of those responsible, then perhaps things would have settled.
It is the violent nature of the state apparatus as a whole that is partly responsible. More than that, though, the state is beholden to a system that perpetuates violence, economic and physical violence. This system is in a state of decline and workers and the poor are suffering from it, as capitalist states pile the burden upon the workers’ shoulders—this fact is ultimately where another truth emanates from. This truth is that oppression and repression breed resistance.
Tens of thousands marched spontaneously on Dec. 7 and 8. Organized marches were called by many coalitions and parties on the left. And the rebellions continued to rage.
Teachers began a strike on Dec. 9 in protest of the killing.
On Dec. 10, after the rebellions had raged for four days, a general strike was carried out, organized by the trade unions close to the Communist Party (KKE). Though the strike had been previously planned as a response to the rising unemployment, poverty, privatizations and other actions of the government, it also raised demands for justice for Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
The strike shut the country down as hundreds of thousands of workers, with the thousands that were already engaging in the rebellions, converged for demonstrations against the government throughout the country, the largest taking place in Athens.
Capitalist media outlets have begun to focus less and less on the situation in Greece. The struggle there continues to remain in the streets and is drawing in broad sectors that could unite behind common demands and a common goal seeking to end the suffering of workers and the poor and put an end to state repression.