Ongoing strife dashes gov’t hopes
Violence eases but anger unabated; forensic and ballistics tests cast doubt on officer’s self-defense claim
A woman walks past burned cars with her children in the center of Athens yesterday (above left). Right: Riot police run after a youngster who had allegedly been throwing rocks at them outside Korydallos Prison in southwestern Athens. Clashes between protesters and police continued around Athens University last night, forcing some metro stations to shut on the sixth day of civil unrest following the shooting of a teenager in the central district of Exarchia.
Pupils staged protests across Attica yesterday as self-styled anarchists clashed with police in the capital, defying assertions by government officials that tensions were easing.
Meanwhile the results of forensic tests indicate that the bullet that killed 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, and sparked this week’s rioting, appears to have entered the youth’s body directly. This casts doubt on claims by the 37-year-old policeman charged with the boy’s murder that the bullet had been fired as a warning and ricocheted.
According to sources, the results of a ballistics test revealed an as yet unidentified substance on the bullet, as well as marks, but experts ruled out the possibility of the bullet having hit a metal or concrete surface before striking the youth, fueling speculation that the marks on the bullet had been caused by contact with the victim’s bone. The forensic and ballistic tests will have to be matched before any final conclusions can be drawn. The Athens Bar Association (ABA) condemned Alexis Kougias, the policeman’s lawyer, for “desecrating the dead” by asserting that the 15-year-old had been a troublemaker. The claims “constitute a moral murder which fuels tensions,” the ABA said.
Tensions were high at many of yesterday’s protests, some of which were violent. But there were peaceful rallies too with many pupils accompanied by their parents.
Some of the worst violence was in Piraeus, where youths attacked a police station with stones, prompting officers to respond with tear gas.
In Athens a protest march that began outside Athens University at 6 p.m. had escalated into violence by nightfall.
Earlier, around 200 youths had staged a sit-down protest opposite Parliament.
In the central district of Patissia, hundreds of pupils from a local school rallied outside a police station, some hurling stones at police. In the suburb of Korydallos, near Piraeus, more than 700 pupils from local schools clashed with police outside a prison and were met with tear gas and stun grenades. Local authorities were critical. “The attack by police was unprovoked, these were children,” Korydallos Mayor Stavros Kassimatis said.
Students staged sit-ins at about 100 university faculties yesterday in protest at the death of the 15-year-old and the government’s education reforms. A rally is to begin in Omonia Square at noon today.
New Democracy begins effort to win back public support
The government launched an effort to get back public opinion back on its side yesterday as a minister appeared live on TV for the first time since Saturday’s shooting of a teenager by a police officer, while Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos openly criticized the court statement made by the policeman.
Speaking in Parliament, Pavlopoulos said that the content of special guard Epaminondas Korkoneas’s written statement, submitted to court on Wednesday, could not be justified. The minister added that it simply underscored Korkoneas’s character. Police and government sources have portrayed the officer as having something of a nasty streak.
Korkoneas had suggested that 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos was an underperforming student who had been expelled from several schools and that with his friends he was involved in sports-related violence. Pavlopoulos’s comments were seen as an attempt by the government to ease tensions.
An appearance by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Mega TV was seen as an attempt to show that the government is recovering from the heavy blow it has taken from this week’s crisis. “I am not happy about the reaction,” he said. “I am deeply concerned about where our society, and particularly the young generation, is headed.” Avramopoulos sought to draw a distinction between the rioters and the students and high school pupils who have protested peacefully.