Athens Braces for Protests Marking Teen’s 2008 Killing

FILE - Protesters march in Athens, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, marking the ninth anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager that sparked the worst rioting Greece had seen in decades. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Tatiana Bollari)

ATHENS – More than 5,000 Greek police will be on the streets Greece’s capital and drones overhead on Dec. 6 anticipating clashes during the 10th anniversary demonstration marking the killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos in 2008 by off-duty police in the anarchist neighborhood of Exarchia.

Battles have flared on that date since and in 2017 saw pitched attacks between anarchists and riot police, leading officials this year to step up a show of force, with the main metro station of Syntagma outside Parliament closed at noon.

A rally was planned by students at noon and another by far-left groups at 5:30 p.m. That is as night approaches and when firebombings have taken place in previous protests. Parts of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, were also going to be closed off.

A police helicopter will fly over Athens, along with a number of drones, while several plainclothes police will be patrolling Exarchia, on the lookout for any suspicious activity, easy to spot as it’s bricks and rocks and marble and Molotov Cocktails being tossed at police who respond with tear gas and squadrons of officers in full riot gear.

Last year, rioting youths hurled Molotov Cocktails, set up street barricades and damaged storefronts in Greece’s two largest cities, including Thessaloniki, as the confrontations went on for hours in the streets.

The policeman who fired the fatal shot had said he didn’t intend to shoot the boy. He was convicted of deliberate manslaughter and is serving a life sentence.

Grigoropoulos’ death sparked extensive riots across Greece that lasted for two weeks. Athens was the most affected, with many stores, buildings and vehicles in the capital smashed and burned. Riot police fought nightly pitched battles with protesters, firing volleys of tear gas to repel youths throwing gasoline bombs, rocks and broken chunks of paving stones.