December 6, 2019 marks the 11th anniversary of the killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by police officer Epaminondas Korkoneas, an act that stands as a landmark case of police brutality in Greece.
In more peaceful times, Greek society would mourn the death of a teenager and take a few minutes to think that law enforcement does not include killing a boy in cold blood. That police are here to protect and to serve, not take revenge on a minor delinquent act of a teenager.
Korkoneas claimed that Grigoropoulos threw a bottle at his patrol car when he was cruising in Exarchia. He then returned on foot with his partner and claims he fired his gun in the air to scare the boy and teach him a lesson. Yet, his two “warning shots” proved to be fatal.
Korkoneas and his partner were tried and convicted. The culprit got a life sentence. But that was not enough for the angry youth of Athens that as soon as the news of the killing spread, Exarchia and the center of the capital became a battleground between them and riot police. For hours, parts of the area were in flames, storefronts, bus stations, apartment building entrances were destroyed and several policemen were injured.
Unfortunately for Athens, the destructive riots of that night became a sad tradition. Every year since, central Athens turns into a battleground of retaliation. Blind rage against police, against anyone who is not young and angry, against society, takes over.
The night of December 6 has become like the night of November 17: a night of violence, mindless vandalism, blind destruction. The anniversary of the death of an innocent teenager is not a day of mourning, but an excuse for anarchist groups to launch an attack against the big enemy: society.
Even the memory of Alexandros Grigoropoulos is smeared by the events. To the point that many of those who pretend that they mourn him on December 6 call him “Alexis”, maybe because it is easier to say than Alexandros, maybe because they never bothered to find out what his real name was.
Students rally on December 6 in his memory. Initially, Grigoropoulos’ death symbolized the killing of young people’s dreams in a country in economic crisis. Korkoneas is the “old” who stands against anything that is young and new.
For students, the rallies soon became an opportunity to protest over education and school issues, the economic crisis, the bleak future ahead. For some, a good day to vent some teenage angst with their peers.
For anarchists, young and old, the murder of Grigoropoulos was the way authority throws its weight against anyone who dares to question it. A State with a licence to kill. A bona fide opportunity to destroy and cause havoc.
So the memory of Alexandros Grigoropoulos is slowly fading in the smoke of firebombs and the deafening sound of noise grenades. The smiling boy with the Sex Pistols T-shirt is no longer with us in a tragic in memoriam. Now he is a convenient martyr of the church of nihilism. Or, at best, the poster boy of rebellious teenage fantasies.