This article was first published on VICE Greece
On December 6, 2008, police officer Epaminondas Korkoneas shot 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in the Athenian district of Exarcheia. Grigoropoulos died in the arms of his friend Nikos Romanos and the shooting sparked a wave of violent riots in Athens that spread across the country. High school and university students took to the streets to protest police brutality, in what would be remembered as one of the most violent periods of citizen unrest in recent history.
Six years later, Romanos, (now a 21-year-old who last year received a 16-year-long sentence for robbing a bank in Velvento, Greece) is on his 28th day of a hunger strike to demand the chance to attend college.
Shadowed both by the anniversary of Grigoropoulos's murder and Romanos's hunger strike, this past Saturday in Greece brought memories of December 2008 to life.
The protests began early in the morning, as university and high school students gathered at the Propylaea of the University of Athens, where m ore than 7,000 policemen had been deployed. That first demonstration in Athens ended peacefully, in contrast to the marches in Patras and Thessaloniki, where police made several arrests and threw tear gas at the protesters.
The evening protest began shortly after 6 PM with crowds chanting, "Your Democracy stinks/ solidarity with Nikos Romanos."
More than 10,000 people headed toward the Greek parliament, and shortly after 7:30 PM police and protesters clashed for the first time, just below Syntagma Square. A few shops and bus stops were hit, while a group of Syrian refugees—who have been holding a protest on the square since November—tried to find shelter.
It was around that time that the tear gassing began and the main mass of protesters was divided, with a bulk of them heading toward Exarcheia and others toward the university. Some remained in Omonoia, where the police deployed their water cannons. They also made mass arrests and threw tear gas into the subway station.
The clashes between police and protesters continued in Exarcheia, where the police also made use of the water canons. The cops then headed toward the building of the General Confederation of Greek Workers ( GSEE) which has been under occupation for a few weeks. GSEE representatives reported that riot policemen attacked the entrance of the building, resulting in four injuries.
Overall, 296 people were detained by police in Athens—among them two journalists, who were released a short while later—and 43 were arrested. The tension continued until the early hours of the morning in Exarcheia. The police brought out their stun guns and tear gas cannisters while protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails—some from the roofs of apartment buildings.
Throughout the day, crowds gathered at spot where Alexandros Grigoropoulos died to leave flowers and notes.
Marches were also held in many other Greek cities including Thessaloniki, Patra, Agrinio, Veria, Volos, Kalamata, and Chania.
In Thessaloniki, the protesters shouted slogans against the police and state oppression. Clashes broke out between police and demonstrators on Tsimiski Street and the front window of a store was set on fire, but it is uncertain whether the damage was caused by Molotov cocktails. Demonstrators rushed to the place to help customers and staff exit the building and put out the fire before it spread. Shortly afterward, riot police cut the march in two by attacking the crowd with tear gas.
Several arrests were made, and at least 11 people were taken to hospital with wounds and respiratory problems.
At 7:30 PM anarchists and other leftists prepared for a new march toward the center of the Thessaloniki. A small group of protesters clashed with undercover police officers and within seconds the city became a battlefield. Molotov cocktails and tear gas were exchanged, with many protesters fleeing to the rooftops of the surrounding buildings. According to official announcements by the police, a total of 35 people were detained and 17 were arrested—all for misdemeanors.
In Mytilini, students reported that police threw a female protester into the sea, arresting her after pulling her out. Demonstrations were also held in London, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Paris, Vienna, and Barcelona; some protesters chanted some variation of, "From Ferguson to Athens, no justice, no peace!"
Meanwhile, last night Nikos Romanos made his opposition to his family's decision to meet with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras clear with a handwritten note. Romanos stated that he understands his parents' anguish but believes that the Prime Minister is trying to manipulate the situation to his advantage.
More photos of the protests below: