It is hard to escape the widespread media coverage of the Greek riots that have been carrying on for days. Greek civilians, mainly youths, have been violently protesting against the police force and government ever since the police shooting and killing of fifteen year old Alexandros. Protestors have resorted to burning stores and cars, throwing stones at policemen, rioting in the streets, and using the media as an outlet to publicize their outrage concerning the situation. According an article in Time magazine, “Some 320 stores, 50 banks, and a number of civilian buildings have been damaged or destroyed in Athens.” Among these buildings was Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy and the Hellenic Parliament Foundation. Some sources reveal that an augmentation of the protests is nowhere in sight.
As an American outsider, viewing this display of outrage and disapproval being carried out by the Greek citizenry seems absurd. It makes it difficult to even analyze the situation and even more so to choose a side to sympathize with. On the one side, there are the policemen who were involved in the shooting. They claim that they were alarmed when nearly 30 youths attacked their patrol car, and out of self defense, they fired warning shots to scare the youngsters. Moreover, they say that shooting the boy was unintentional and that he was unknowingly targeted.
On the other hand, there are thousands of vexed Greeks who share a different story, one that highlights their dissatisfaction with the police. They emphasize police inadequacies of reducing high rates of crime and in the police’s refusal to answer emergency calls; furthermore, they accused the police of being corrupt. After all, this is not the first time conflicts have erupted between the two groups. In the city where the boy was shot, clashes between the police force and anarchic groups are evidently a frequent occurrence. So what has erupted into—from what an outside perceives—as an exaggerated violent episode appears to be the result of an ongoing battle.
The question posed now is how far will these youths go to get what they want, and really, what is it that they want? After all, Prime Minister Karamanlis has already promised investigations and a fair trial and the policemen involved in the situation have been taken into custody. But even though he made these statements clear on the day of the outbreak of protests, it has done little to appease the unhappy Greeks. Is it farfetched to think that maybe the protestors are pushing for a change in government? George Papandreou, leader of the center-left opposition, ridiculed Karamanlis for his government’s inability to control the situation and suggested that his government step down. Is it unlikely that Karamanlis’s government will step down? It is hard to say, but I wouldn’t exclude this as an option. Not only is Karamanlis’s government faced with these violent riots but Greek unions have staged a strike in protest against the government’s economic policies. It looks as though Karamanlis has a lot of social unrest to deal with and how he and his government plan to do so is uncertain.