International / News / January 21, 2009

Knox student witnesses riots abroad

“I was a few blocks away when it happened…people started crying and called an ambulance. You can’t really react immediately when you have a person who died right next to you. That same night everyone went down and started rioting,” said senior Nikiforos Tsaravopoulos.

On Dec. 7 in Athens, Greece, a 15-year-old was shot and killed by a police officer. Details of how the teenager was killed, whether the gun was fired directly, or whether the bullet ricocheted and killed the boy, are still coming in.

Tsaravopoulos described the night starting as any other Friday night, with people out in the streets socializing. Then a police car pulled up and blocked the entrance to the neighborhood. The police officers started swearing at the kids nearby and one teen threw a water bottle at the car. The police drove away, but one officer later walked back to the entrance and into the crowd. He pointed the gun towards a group of kids and fired, the bullet hitting the 15-year-old. That night rioters took to the streets. Cars and shops were burned, windows broken, roadblocks set up, and homemade explosives set off, covering the city in smoke and char. The riots remained this intense until Dec. 24, when the rioting died down, only to pick up again the first week of January.

Many of the rioters came from the Exarchia District, where both Tsaravopoulos and the deceased teenager were from. This neighborhood is known for its leftist inhabitants: police will not even enter the area, and they understand they have limited control here.

The violent outbreak from the riots is more complicated than the media reports, Tsaravopoulos said. He believes that there are two types of violence being witnessed in these riots. There is the violence and destruction enacted by the anarchists and students who attacked corporate entities, and the violence of the state made against smaller stores. Tsaravopoulos believes undercover police perpetrated the attacks to make the rioters look bad, shifting public opinion towards the state. “A lot of the violence you see is coming from the state,” he said.

Tsaravopoulos shares similar beliefs to the rioters who believe that the Greek state is corrupt. “Police don’t care [to help people]. The police become police because they have personal problems…problems of insecurity,” he said.

“Policemen are brainwashed young people, if you give a gun to someone with power problems, obviously he is going to kill.”

Both Greek citizens and police have been injured in theses clashes. Additionally, other cities in Europe are protesting in solidarity.

Klayr Valentine-Fossum

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