Students, trade unionists and politicians tried to defy the coronavirus ban to pay tribute to 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was shot dead by police in 2008.
Police in the Greek capital have arrested dozens of people who opposed a coronavirus-related ban to attend the annual commemoration of the 2008 police officer fatal shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
Around 4,000 police officers were deployed on Sunday to prevent gatherings and will continue to do so until the early hours of Monday.
The footage released online showed riot police entering apartment buildings in Exarcheia, a neighborhood in central Athens, on Sunday afternoon to wash up potential protesters. A video showed officers throwing stun grenades into a building. Another clip showed police pushing photojournalists and other accredited media representatives.
The scenes recalled the persistent tactics of the police last month when they forcibly broke up a peaceful rally to commemorate a student uprising in 1973 against the then military rulers of Greece.
VIDEO: Greek video of chasing people and then throwing a lightning grenade into the entrance of an apartment block. These weapons can cause serious injury such as permanent numbness, loss of eyes / fingers, etc. when used in a confined space. Https://t.co/7disuLCRQd
– Teacher Dude (@teacherdude) December 6, 2020
As before November 17, authorities also announced this week a ban on gatherings of more than four people as the spread of COVID-19 must be prevented.
But groups of students, trade unionists and left-wing politicians, some of whom carried flowers, tried to oppose the measure to pay tribute to Grigoropoulos on the 12th anniversary of his death by Exarcheia police.
The officer who killed the teenager was convicted of murder and given a life sentence. He was released in 2019. A decision that Grigoropoulos’ family is appealing to in court.
The country broke out at the time of his murder, when students, left-wing activists, and others took part in ever larger protests that at times turned violent. Since then, demonstrations and small clashes with the police have taken place almost every year on December 6th.
A picture of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, right, in a spontaneous shrine at the site of the fatal shooting in Athens 12 years ago [File: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo]On Thursday, Greece extended a second nationwide lockdown to December 14th, imposed last month after the increase in COVID-19 cases, which threatens to overwhelm the country’s already strained healthcare system.
As of Sunday, the country had recorded 115,471 confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 3,000 deaths.
Political opponents of the conservative Greek government have criticized it for using measures to contain the coronavirus as a cover for introducing increasingly stringent security measures.
Opposition parties denounced the police actions on Sunday and called for the detainees to be released.
Last month, the Global Rights Watchdog Amnesty International said it was “deeply concerned” by the authorities’ decision to impose a general ban on public gatherings.
“Restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly to contain the pandemic are allowed but must be strictly necessary and proportional. Even in these difficult times, governments do not have carte blanche to restrict human rights, ”said Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty’s Regional Director for Europe.
The Greek authorities have banned all public gatherings and rallies on the 12th anniversary of the murder of teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police officer in Athens [Yorgos Karahalis/AP]