The fatal killing of a young man on December 6th has many people in Greece outraged. After the death of 15 year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the largest protests in years occurred in the Greek capitol of Athens and quickly spread throughout the country. The outpouring of anger was caused by a policeman who shot to death the boy in the district of Exarchia, a stronghold of Athens’ anarchists.
The two policemen involved in the incident were arrested and an investigation on the exact sequence of events was conducted to clarify if the young man was shot deliberately or if he died tragically by errant warning shots fired by one police officer after their car was attacked by a mob throwing stones. As a reaction to this unfortunate incident, Greece faced protests at an unprecedented scale. Rioters marched to the police headquarters, torched cars, burned shops, blocked streets, burned petrol bombs and caused severe damage in the millions.
The question of why the death of this young person caused such a huge outburst of rage that spilled over to the entire country and spread to several European cities requires taking a deeper look at the circumstances. One major aspect which deserves attention is the increasing social pressure young people encounter in Greece. They are confronted with high unemployment which is severely affecting employment opportunities for young graduates. Another reason for the protests lies within the political system favoring nepotism and bureaucracy. Prime Minister Costas Karamalis, whose conservative party is holding a razor thin majority in parliament, was elected with the assumption he would realize his promise “to tackle corruption, make Greece a meritocracy and enable business to flourish.” Unfortunately, Greece “is still a country where money and influence talk” (BBC News).
Greece’s government is facing growing unpopularity due to financial scandals and ignoring the pressing need for reforms in the health, education and public policy sectors. Greece “is a land of European prices and African wages” and the government “was never radical enough to implement structural changes required to clean up Greece and enable its youth to flourish” (BBC News).
Young people identifying themselves as anarchists or communists and youths without any political affiliation were involved in the riots. Politicians, authorities and society in general must now acknowledge the existence and needs of a younger generation expecting a supportive policy environment and better opportunities for their future. The financial crisis and raised fears worldwide about an upcoming economic depression “greater than the great depression” (BBC News) has caused uncertainty and anxiety about the future among young people in general. This crisis shouldn’t be handled at the expense of ignoring the social needs of young people and cutting of investments in education. We are not back in 1968 but the mistrust towards the establishment is still alive.