Last night saw the another round of protests and riots in Greece's major cities sparked off by the shooting by police of a 15 year - old in Athens on sSaturday. The scale and intensity of the the troubles has alarmed at shocked those in power and is being compared in the media to the disturbances that followed the Rodney King beating in LA and the 2005 riots in France
In Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city between 5000 and 10, 000 people took part in a protest march last night which was repeatedly tear gassed by riot police. In addition the march was also accompanied by attacks by anarchist groups on stores belonging to multi-national chains, banks and post offices. Several buildings were set on fire including Starbucks and McDonald franchises during the clashes which lasted into the morning.
Although Athens and Thessaloniki are quiet at the moment more protest marches are planned to coincide with the burial today of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. In the original police report the death was termed an act of self defense by the two police officers involved who claimed that they had come under attack from a mob of thirty youths.
However, eye witness accounts given to the Greek media talk of an execution style killing as the officer who fired first aimed at the youth after getting into an argument with the teenagers.
What many argue, though is the killing of Alexandros was merely the cue for the violent expression of a much deeper sense of dissatisfaction by young Greeks. Even before the current economic downturn those under 25 faced sky high levels of unemployment and limited prospects in low paying jobs. This combined with a deep sense of distrust of the government fostered by years of scandal has found its expression in violence and protests seen over the last four days.
In addition the incident has once again thrown light on the Greek police's tarnished record concerning unlawful killings and a systematic lack of accountability even when evidence of abuse is overwhelming. According to the national daily, Eleutherotypia one person a week dies in custody in Greek police stations and jails.