Students, trade unionists and politicians tried to defy the coronavirus ban to pay tribute to Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15, shot dead by police in 2008.
Police in the Greek capital have arrested dozens of people who defied a coronavirus ban to participate in the annual commemoration of the fatal shooting of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15, by a policeman in 2008.
Some 4,000 police were deployed on Sunday to prevent rallies and will continue to do so until the wee hours of Monday.
Images posted online showed riot police on Sunday afternoon entering buildings in Exarcheia, a district in central Athens, to flush out potential protesters. Video showed officers throwing stun grenades inside a building. Another clip showed police pushing photojournalists and other accredited members of the media.
The scenes recalled the heavy tactics passed by police last month when they violently broke up a peaceful rally commemorating a 1973 student uprising against then-Greek military rulers.
VIDEO: A Greek video tracking people down and then throwing a lightning grenade inside the entrance of a building. These weapons can cause serious injuries such as permanent deafness, loss of eyes / fingers, etc. when used in confined spaces https://t.co/7disuLCRQd
– Professor Dude (@teacherdude) December 6, 2020
As they did ahead of the November 17 anniversary, authorities this week also announced a ban on gatherings of more than four people due to the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But groups of students, trade unionists and leftist political leaders, some carrying flowers, tried to challenge the measure to pay homage to Grigoropoulos on the 12th anniversary of his gunshot death at the hands of the police in Exarcheia.
The officer who killed the teenager was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was later released in 2019, a decision that Grigoropoulos’ family are appealing to the courts.
The country erupted at the time of his assassination, with students, left-wing activists and others taking part in growing protests that sometimes turned violent. Small-scale protests and clashes with police have taken place on December 6 almost every year since.
Greece on Thursday extended a second national lockdown imposed last month until Dec. 14 after an increase in COVID-19 cases that threaten 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 related deaths.
Political opponents of Greece’s conservative government have criticized it for using coronavirus containment measures as a cover to impose increasingly harsh security measures.
Opposition parties denounced the police action on Sunday and demanded the release of those detained.
Global rights watchdog Amnesty International last month said it was “deeply concerned” by the authorities’ decision to ban open meetings globally.
“Restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly to stem the pandemic are permitted but must respect the principles of strict necessity and proportionality. Governments do not have a free hand to restrict human rights, even in these difficult times, ”said Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty Regional Director for Europe.