Youths clash with police in Greek cities
Gangs of rock-throwing youths made sporadic attacks on police stations across Athens, stoned the Interior Ministry and clashed with riot police outside Parliament in a third day of violence protesting the police shooting of a teenager.world Updated: Dec 08, 2008 22:33 IST
Gangs of rock-throwing youths made sporadic attacks on police stations across Athens, stoned the Interior Ministry and clashed with riot police outside Parliament on Monday in a third day of violence protesting the police shooting of a teenager.
Scattered confrontations between police and protesting youths broke out around the country Monday. In Berlin, 15 youths occupied the Greek consulate, but police said there was no violence. Youths protested at the Greek embassies in London and in Nicosia, Cyprus Some of the worst riots Greece has seen in years began within hours of the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Saturday night in the often volatile central Athens district of Exarchia. Two police officers have been arrested and one is charged with murder.
Self-styled anarchists and other youths have smashed and burned dozens of shops, cars and banks. About 30 civilians have been treated for minor injuries in hospitals around the country, authorities said, and Athens police report 37 policemen hurt in the capital over the weekend.
Running battles between riot police firing tear gas and about 400 high school students throwing rocks broke out Monday morning in Veria, a town about 40 miles (60 kilometers) west of the port city of Thessaloniki. At the port, riot police fired tear gas at youths smashing storefronts and throwing rocks at a police station. Gangs of high school students in Crete's main city of Chania threw broken chairs, rocks and pieces of wood at riot police who responded with volleys of tear gas. And in the central city of Trikala, police clashed with youths.
In the capital, hours before planned demonstrations, youths were attacking police stations and clashing with police in the streets. "Cops! pigs! murderers!" the protesters bellowed at the police. The circumstances surrounding the shooting of the teenager Grigoropoulos are still unclear. The two policemen claimed they had come under attack by a group of about 30 youths, and that three warning shots and a stun grenade were fired when they sought out the group a few minutes later.
But witnesses have disputed the officers' accounts, telling Greek media that the police intended to shoot the youths. One officer has been charged with murder and the other as an accomplice. The last time a teenager was killed in a police shooting _ during a demonstration in 1985 _ it sparked weeks of rioting. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appealed on Monday for calm. "All the dangerous and unacceptable events that occurred because of the emotions that followed the tragic incident cannot and will not be tolerated," he said in a live televised address Monday. "The state will protect society."
Karamanlis' governing conservatives have a majority of one seat in the 300-member Parliament. His increasingly unpopular government has been rocked by scandals and has recently faced frequent and sometimes violent demonstrations to protest economic reforms. The opposition Socialists are now consistently ahead in opinion polls for the first time in eight years.
The latest violence spread to Greek diplomatic missions abroad. In Berlin, 15 youths occupied the Greek consulate, the mission said without elaborating. Berlin police said there was no violence. In London, demonstrators pulled down the Greek flag and set it afire, then raised the red-and-black anarchists' banner at the Greek Embassy.
The Police Officers' Association has apologized to the boy's family, and President Karolos Papoulias sent a telegram to his parents expressing his condolences.
Violence often breaks out between riot police and anarchists during demonstrations in Greece. Anarchist groups are also blamed for late-night firebombings of targets such as banks and diplomatic vehicles. The attacks rarely cause injuries.
The self-styled anarchist movement partly traces its roots in the resistance to Greece's 1967-74 military dictatorship. The youths tend to espouse general anti-capitalist and antiestablishment principles, and have long-running animosity toward the police.