Received these pics today from my friend Valia in Athens, shot over the past few days in the Exarcheia neighborhood, the heart of the current unrest. The city’s a mess. (This is her car on Sunday, below. Can someone give her a tow?)
The Greek capital’s been on fire since police killed Alexis Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old schoolboy on Saturday, whose death was the catalyst for daily demonstrations, clashes with the police, storms of molotov cocktails, showers of tear gas. Today was Day 5 and there is no end in sight. This looks more like Beirut than the city that hosted the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
Demonstrations, general strikes, and clashes with the cops aren’t anything new in Greece, but even many Greeks are admitting they haven’t seen anything quite like this in more than a generation, if ever. But the problems run much deeper than a single police killing.
One target is the right wing government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, whose New Democracy Party holds a narrow one-seat advantage in parliament. Corrupt and incompetent are generally used to describe his tenure.
The other is simple economics. One-fifth of Greek workers life below the poverty line. Young people –a few of whom are throwing those molotovs– are particularly hard-hit. Greece has the highest unemployment rate among college graduates and post-graduates in the EU. Living on their own, even into their 30s, is generally not an option. Global recession isn’t helping.
Greek Daily Ta Nea, sees the riots as an expression of the desperation in Greek society: “The death of the student was only the catalyst. It was the fuse for the great explosion. The explosion conceals a compressed desperation. … Many young people live with the unbearable knowledge that there is no future, that the future is a bricked-up window. Somewhere out there a blind fury is lurking. … Not violence, but desperation appears to be the origin of our story.”
Italy’s left-liberal La Repubblica ascribes the riots in Athens to the economic crisis, and warns of renewed violence. “The storm of riots that has convulsed Greece for the past two days is the first violent reaction in the West to the economic crisis and the inadequacy of government measures to combat it. … The tragic episode on Saturday … must be seen in the context of the crisis and the fears it has stoked among weaker segments of society.