Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Greece is on Fire

It seems only write to blog on the issue of the riots while I am sitting in my apartment awaiting updated information on what tonight is going to look like. As most of you have read, a 15 year old boy was shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday night. This boy (Alex) and a group of his friends were allegedly throwing rocks at the cop car. As Alex threw a petrol bomb the cop shot him. Things quickly turned from bad to worse. Protesters took to the streets that night, torching stores, pummeling banks with windows, and battling with the police. My roommates and I had no idea any of this had happened the night before because we do not have a TV or internet in our apartment. So, we went to Ermou street on Sunday to get coffee and go shopping. Little did we know that over half the stores (shopping district of Athens) had either been torhed or had broken windows. About 10 minutes after we walked around and checked things out we got a text message from our school saying to avoid the area we were standing in as well as 3 other parts of Athens due to large protests. At this point we were watching the police department file out of their vans with their riot gear in hand. Needless to say, we decided to head home.

We still had no idea why the massive destruction had happened until people started getting phone calls from their parents asking if they were ok and explaining what had happened. Rioters continued to clash with the police throughout Sunday. We went to class on Monday only to be dismissed early because things we escalating. Monday night has been the worst so far. They torched the city's Christmas tree, destroyed downtown Athens through fires and smashing storefront windows, and lighting anything and everything on fire.

Our last day of classes for the semester was canceled today due to the boy's funeral. Things are expected to be violent tonight again. We walked downtown this morning to where the city's Christmas tree stood and checked out the damage. It is extensive but not as war zone like as they are describing on CNN. The cities outside of Athens that are seeing riots as well as just as badly destroyed. We also learned last night that Greeks in other European cities were taking the Greek consulates and burning their own flag. They want to mark their solidarity with the youth protesters in Greece I suppose.

So Why? Why such a violent reaction to the death of a 15 yr old. Well it is more then that. This is the straw that broke the camel's back so to say. Greeks are furious at their current government and the economic situation. There cost of living has risen (as it as around the world) while wages have stayed the same and unemployment keeps growing. Also, in the youth say the cops are a bunch of "pigs" because they get away with whatever they want. In essence, they see the police and the government working hand in hand and not for the betterment of Greece.

What now? Everyone is really unsure as to how long these protests will last. Many have said that if the current PM calls for early elections next year then things will clam down. However, many have also said that if Greece calls a state of emergency and brings in the military things will get much much worse very quickly. Greeks still reference the military junta that ruled for 6 years as if it was yesterday. They drove their tanks on to the college campus in Athens and killed about 40 students. Since then universities throughout Greece are aslyums.. no police officer is allowed to enter university grounds. This has its pros and cons. Pros it is a way to contain protesters and con--the faculty at the universities have called for a 3 day strike so students are basically just storing ammunition in their safe haven.

The poor kid and his family. Their heads must be spinning over all of this. I'll keep you all posted on my situation. We are having a town hall meeting tomorrow to answer any and all questions / discuss what happens if things do not get better by the end of the week. We shall see.

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