World News

Riots Flare in Athens on the 10th Anniversary of a Police Killing

Posted December 6, 2018 9:08 p.m. EST

ATHENS, Greece — Rioting broke out here and in Thessaloniki late Thursday, as masked youths at barricades pelted the police with homemade firebombs after rallies for the 10th anniversary of a fatal police shooting of a teenager.

The unrest in Athens flared in the neighborhood of Exarchia, a traditional stronghold for anarchists and where 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead in 2008, sparking the worst street riots Greece had seen in decades.

On Thursday, protesters lobbed firebombs and chunks of concrete hacked out of the sidewalks at riot police, who fired back tear gas and cast a choking, acrid haze, which hung over Exarchia into the early hours of Friday. A water cannon was used to douse fires in cars and dumpsters and on barricades and a building’s balcony.

A police official said that authorities had detained 66 people and that two officers and a protester had suffered minor injuries. The official said some of the protesters had built a burning barricade of car tires and refuse, and others had climbed onto rooftops, prompting the police to stay in the neighborhood even after the streets had calmed.

Similar violence broke out in the northern port of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, where protesters set up several barricades in the streets, engaged in running battles with the police and set fire to subway construction sites. A police official there said late Thursday that the situation was under control and that 52 people had been detained.

Clashes between professed anarchists and the police have become something of a ritual after rallies, usually peaceful, to commemorate the shooting of Grigoropoulos.

The teenager had been out with friends in Exarchia when an argument prompted a police officer to fire his gun, fatally wounding Grigoropoulos. The shooting sparked two weeks of rioting in Athens and other cities, and led to the officer, Epaminondas Korkoneas, being sentenced to life in prison for murder.

Thousands of police officers were on the streets of Athens on Thursday anticipating unrest, following violence on last month’s anniversary of the 1973 student uprising at Athens Polytechnic, which was suppressed by police officers and tanks on the orders of the country’s military dictatorship. That anniversary, too, has over the years culminated in running battles between rioters and the police.