Violence escalated in central Athens late on Saturday, in the wake of protest marches held to commemorate the shooting of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos by a policeman six years ago. Groups of protestors that broke off from the main body of a march on Panepistimiou street made their way towards the Exarchia district, where Grigoropoulos was killed six years earlier on December 6, 2008, where they set fires and engaged in ‘guerrilla warfare’ tactics with riot police.
At least 20 people were detained for the incidents taking place in the city centre, while tensions remained high in Exarchia and a car was reported torched on Benaki street.
The violence broke out during a second large march in memory of Grigoropoulos that was held in Athens, following a largely peaceful march by students and school children earlier in the day. Thousands of demonstrators set off from the area in front of Athens University, initially planning to reach Syntagma Square, but most turned back to the rallying point after clashes broke out between Panepistimiou and Stadiou Streets, before the marched reached the square.
Tension between protestors and police erupted near Mitropoleos Street, where police used stun grenades, and on Panepistimiou at the intersection with Voukourestiou Street, where groups of protestors attacked police with stones and were again fended off with stun grenades and tear gas. Other groups set fire to dumpsters, broke shop windows, smashed marble stonework on buildings and vandalised bus stops and phone booths.
Protest marches for Grigoropoulos in Thessaloniki, Patras and other Greek cities were also marred by violence, with at least five people detained in Thessaloniki and seven in Patras following clashes with police.
In Thessaloniki, groups of protestors damaged shop windows and surveillance cameras at bank branches along Tsimiski road, overturned dumpsters, daubed paint on banks and threw stones and pieces of marble at police, who replied with stun grenades.
One protestors threw a flare through a shop window, starting a fire that was extinguished before anyone was injured.
Violent incidents were also reported during a demonstration for Grigoropoulos in the port city of Patras, where hooded individuals threw a petrol bomb at the Courthouse and seven people were detained in ensuing scuffles with police, who responded with stun grenades.
Minor skirmishes between police and protesting youths were also reported in the western Greek city of Agrinio, during a rally in memory of Grigoropoulos and in support of Romanos, as well as in the city of Ioannina.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras agreed to receive the parents of hunger-striking inmate Nikos Romanos at his offices on Monday at 11:00, the government announced. The meeting was arranged at the request of Romanos’ parents, which was relayed to the prime minister’s office by Romanos’ lawyer on Saturday afternoon, the announcement said.
But, with a statement read to the press by his lawyer on Saturday, Nikos Romanos asked their parents not to meet with the Prime Minister, because “he knows well what to do”.
Romanos, in prison serving a conviction for armed robbery and also facing trial on terrorism-related charges, started his hunger strike near four weeks earlier in protest against the refusal of his request for educational furlough. Romanos wants to attend classes for a course at a Technological Educational Institute, where he had obtained a place after sitting nationwide university entrance exams earlier this year.
Outspoken SYRIZA lawmaker Yiannis Micheloyiannakis announced on Saturday that he was going on hunger strike, citing a series of reasons ranging from solidarity for dozens of Syrian refugees who have been protesting outside Parliament, as well as austerity policies and the government’s refusal to grant study furloughs to jailed bank robber and anarchist Nikos Romanos.
“I have decided to go on hunger strike with the Syrians,” the leftist said. He slammed the government for “begging the troika to accept [the measures] that they want to enforce” and for not responding to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutolgu’s stated support for energy resources discovered off Cyprus being shared between the two communities on the divided island.
“Not as an MP but as a Greek citizen, I am unable to understand and to agree to all the above,” Micheloyiannakis said.