ATHENS — Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Athens on Dec. 6 to mark the sixth anniversary of the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager in the Greek capital that led to widespread rioting, while clashes have broken out between demonstrators and police in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15, had been out with friends in a central Athens neighborhood when he was shot on Dec. 6, 2008 following a verbal altercation with police. His death led to two weeks of the most violent rioting Greece had seen in decades.
This year’s anniversary marches come at a time when nearly nightly violent protests are being held by supporters of one of Grigoropoulos’ friends, jailed anarchist and convicted bank robber Nikos Romanos, 21.
He was present when Grigoropoulos was killed, is on a hunger strike, demanding prison leave to attend lectures after he passed university entrance exams.
Romanos, currently hospitalized under police guard, has been on the hunger strike since last month and doctors have said his health is failing.
He was jailed with another three young men following a February 2013 bank robbery in which they took a hostage as they tried to escape. Police released doctored mugshots of the four at the time to remove signs of severe facial bruising caused during the arrest, leading to an outcry at the time.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will meet with Romanos’ parents on Dec. 8, following a request made through their lawyer on Dec. 6, the government said.
Protesters during the demonstration chanted slogans in support of Romanos as well as in memory of Grigoropoulos. Several thousand people, many wearing motorcycle helmets and gas masks, marched through central Athens in a demonstration that ended peacefully. More protests were planned for later in the evening.
In Thessaloniki, groups of youths broke off from a march of about 6,000 people, throwing Molotov Cocktails and scuffling with police who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
The protest came as center of the Greek capital was locked down with heavy security for the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, giving police another headache to deal with.
More than 18,5000 officers were be on stand-by for the protests and to protect the area where Davutoglu met Samaras and other Greek leaders.
Yiannis Michailidis, a fellow convict of Romanos, threatened the life of Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou for snubbing the 21-year-old’s request for an education furlough.
“I am very hungry. If you kill Nikos, only your throat would sate my hunger,” Michailidis, who is also on hunger strike, said in a letter from prison. Romanos has refused food since November 10.
During a visit to the hospital where Romanos is under observation, his father called for mass participation in the demonstrations.
The major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left SYRIZA that supports anarchists and violence also called for the government to let Romanos out of jail for classes and decried what it called an “attack on democracy and rights.”
A group of 30 protesters, mostly students, were detained by police Dec. 5 as they staged a rally outside the Justice Ministry in solidarity with Romanos. Greece has banned protests and public gatherings during Davutoglu’s visit.
Asonists and vandals targeted banks and public buildings in a string of overnight attacks on Dec. 5 that caused no injuries, police said.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
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