Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On the third day of rioting

There are three things going on here and it is difficult to separate the three, even for those living here.

Prologue: On Saturday night, Alex Grigoropoulos, a 15 year-old boy died as a result of a bullet wound to the chest. The bullet had been fired by a police contractor who should not have been carrying a weapon and was affectionately known as "Rambo" at the station-house on account of his short temper. Depending on which version of the story one reads the kid may have done nothing to provoke the wrath of the "policeman", may have pelted a police car with beer bottles or done anything in between. It is not unlikely that someone in the group of kids spoke indecently to the "policeman". The policeman responded by calling out the words, "This'll show you" before firing his weapon. Depending on who you read, the "policeman" then fired either two or three times. The "policeman" claims to have fired one warning short into the ground and two into the air. Eyewitnesses claim that the "policeman" took aim and fired twice at the 15 year old. The extent to which the use of deadly force is justified (in any of the scenarios which preceded the shooting) is left as an exercise for the reader. The coroner as at 9 December has not determined the angle at which the bullet entered the boy and so there is no way to determine whether it was a direct hit or the result of a ricochet. Obviously, graduates of the blinkered school of autopsies would have trouble pronouncing on such a simple thing as entry wound direction. As a result of the shooting the following happened:

1. On Saturday night, immediately following the shooting: Riots in central Athens started by anarchists / troublemakers using the death of Alex Grigoropoulos as an excuse to burn rubbish bins and throw stones around. This has continued as a theme every night since then and has resulted in banks and other commercial properties to be destroyed, as well as public vehicles (fire-engines, state sector cars, etc).

2. Schools have closed for a few days in mourning and there have been genuine expressions of grief / solidarity with his family. School children have made mainly peaceful marches on public buildings. Some have pelted said public buildings with stones and eggs and stuff, but the school children in general are not troublemakers.

3. Politically motivated groups have been calling on the people to do all sorts of weird things like bring down the government, begin armed class struggle and refuse to serve in the military (amongst others). They are trying to capitalise on the death of Alex for political gain. If I could spell the word demagoguery I might even write it in my blog.

So while the death of Alex Grigoropoulos is a very bad thing, it is being mishandled by everyone. The anarchists (it is only a small number of them) should be crushed - their fight has very little to do with Alex and the politicians should desist from their bickering and sit down to talk about reforming the police force on the one had and protecting the safety and property of your everyday Athenians living and working in the centre of Athens.

So, on with the show.

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