Monday, December 08, 2008

Times were wild in the 1960s

Stuff was happening in America and Europe and Latin America and Japan in the 1960s like, well, this story from today about rioting in Greece by Riots in Greece Enter Third Day by Anthee Carassava New York Times 12/08/08 [the print-screen version gives the date as 12/09, even though as of this writing it's not yet 12/09 in Greece]:

The violence in Greece by youths angry over the killing of a teenager by the police raged for a third day on Monday as thousands of police officers failed to contain some of the worst rioting in recent years. ...

On Sunday, the protesters took to the streets in Athens and other Greek cities, burning shops, cars and businesses despite swift action by the government, which charged a police officer with premeditated manslaughter in the shooting death of the 15-year-old on Saturday night. ...

The riots began hours after the boy was shot during a confrontation between the police and youths in the Exarchia neighborhood of central Athens, a district of bars, bookshops and restaurants where many young leftists live and socialize.

The youths regularly clash with the police, whom they view as symbols of the establishment. In most cases, the confrontations are relatively contained and end at the gates of universities with the young people holding off the police with gasoline bombs, rocks and slingshots.

But the speed with which the riots spread over the weekend — and the ferocity of the protests — seemed to take the government by surprise. The police nationwide were not put on alert until Sunday night, only after fires had destroyed dozens of businesses, including a high-end department store in central Athens.
I don't know much about the internal politics of Greece. But it was a striking fact to me that the country's Interior Minister, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who presumably has ultimate responsibility for the Athens police, formally offered to resign over the shooting for which the policeman was charged with manslaughter.

The prime minister declined to accept the resignation. But even if it was pure political pantomine, it's a striking contrast to US practice. American Cabinet officials normally wouldn't dream of resigning over the action of a low-level employee in their department.

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