By Victoria Loutas
On December 6th 2008, 15-year-old student Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by a police officer in Exarchia, Greece. The murder triggered a wave of riots across the nation and eventually the incident took on international proportions and events of solidarity and support were organized in many major cities around the world.
On the evening of December 6th, at around 9pm, Grigoropoulos and his friends were sitting in a corner in Exarchia, where they exchanged swear words with two policemen in a patrol car that was passing by.
Later, Epaminondas Korkoneas and Vasilis Saraliotis returned to the scene on foot. Here, the verbal confrontation continued, when suddenly, Alexandros Grigopoulos was fatally shot by officer Epaminondas Korkoneas, a member of the special guard unit of the Greek police.
The two policemen returned to their station and informed their service of the incident, however they claimed that the shooting was in response to a renewed attack by the youths. Eye witnesses, however, invalidated this claim, reporting that the children did not ambush the officers.
Immediately following the shooting, young Grigorpoulos was transported to the nearby Evangelismos Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Within just an hour of the shooting, the news began to spread like wildfire. Angry demonstrators took to the streets of Exarchia and started burning trash containers, cars, bus stops and anything else they could. Soon more fires broke out all over Athens as more and more people clashed with the riot police. Overnight, similar demonstrations started to rise in many other Greek cities, and eventually, the riots took over the country.
The next day, Karolos Papoulias, the President of the Republic released a telegram of condolences to the student’s family. In this, he described the death as a “trauma to the rule of law” and expressed his determination and confidence to punish those responsible.
The large protest marches continued from December 7 – 10, as thousands of people came out to demonstrate their anger and disappointment in the Federal policing system. According to EVEA estimates, the damage caused in Athens alone exceeded 50 million euros.
The trial for the case of murder of Alexandros Grigorpoulos was set for December 15, 2009, and in the meantime, the defendents were held in custody, as officer Kornoeas was to be tried for manslaughter, and officer Saraliotis was to be tried for conspiracy to commit a crime. The mixed jury in Amfissa decided that Korkoneas was guilty of premeditated murder and the policeman received a life sentence. Saraliotis received ten years for accessory to murder.
Every year, on December 6th, the people of Athens mourn and remember the innocent life that was lost.