Article published on the 2008-12-08 Latest update 2008-12-09 10:42 TU
Demonstrations continued Monday in the capital, Athens, and other cities around the country. The two police officers who were implicated in the shooting death of Alexis Grigoropooulos on Saturday night, which sparked the violent reactions, have been arrested. In a televised address Monday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis expressed his regret and blamed “extremists” for “exploiting” the situation. General Secretary for information, Panos Leivadas, told RFI that the government does not object to protests, but is concerned when they turn violent.
Leivadas blamed “small and isolated minorities” for starting the violent riots, who “have tried to take advantage of the spontaneous expression of sorrow and condemnation and to transform it into a source of violence.”
“We all feel the need for sorrow, and the need for demonstrations,” he continued “That’s why I think these demonstrations will go on – and they should go on – but what we’re working on, and one of the things the Prime Minister said, the form of paying tribute to the memory of Alexis… is to do it in peace.”
“As we speak, due process is being followed,” said Leivadas. “The two people responsible for this action have been brought to justice. I believe one of them has been charged with premeditated manslaughter, and the other for complicity.”
Schools were closed around the country Monday, and hundreds of young people took to the streets, marching on parliament in Athens.
“There’s riot police, and you can see that the students are very young, from age 10 to way into their teens,” reported correspondent Christina Pirovolakis from the Foreign Ministry, in front of Parliament. “So in a lot of cases these are just children… they’ve covered their faces and basically are just trying to find any sort of weaponry.”
While the government and the police are calling the shooting an isolated incident, Pirvolakis says it pushed an already unhappy population over the edge.
“For months there have been demonstrations in the streets by unions, by students, by pensioners over issues such as privatisations, such as low wages, such as insecurity about their pensions,” she said. “Police have been targeting citizens all through the months… so this is basically the last straw.”
Leivadas agrees that Greeks are unhappy with the economic situation.
“It is only natural that governments under such circumstances are the target of criticism,” he said. “But what we need to do is make the distinction of the normal chain of events… from violence.”
He said the Prime Minister has agreed to compensate small businesses that were destroyed in protests.
“It’s been announced by the Prime Minister, and is going to be announced in the next few days, and I think this is what the government should do under extenuating circumstances,” said Leivadas.
The Communist party has called a protest for Monday evening, and a general strike has been called for Wednesday.