Saturday, December 13, 2008

Greek Uprising Enters its Seventh Day

AP - Rioters in Greece attack police station, banks


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rioting youths in the Greek capital attacked a police station, stores and banks and fought running battles with police late Saturday, authorities said, as violent protests against a police killing continued for the seventh straight day.

The clashes broke out as candlelit vigils were being held to mark a week since the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy, which triggered the riots that are threatening the stability of the government.

Youths — some on foot, others riding motorcycles — attacked a police station with petrol bombs in central Athens as well as at least three banks, several stores and a government building, police said.

Several hundred protesters set up burning barricades and attacked police with rocks and flares. Riot police fired tear gas and chased the youths through parts of the city. The protesters chanted "murderers out" and used laser pointers to target police for attack.

Violence has wracked Greece every day since the death of teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos. The riots in cities throughout the country has left at least 70 people injured. Hundreds of stores have been smashed and looted, and more than 200 people have been arrested.

While most of the protesters have been peaceful, the tone of the demonstrations has been set by a violent fringe. And more young people have been willing to join those fringe elements than in the past.

Hundreds of school children holding candles gathered peacefully Saturday outside parliament and at the site where teenager was shot.

Outside parliament, they left candles spelling out the name "Alex" in front of a line of riot policemen.

The young protesters promised to remain on the streets until their concerns — including opposition to increasingly unpopular government and worry over economic issues — are addressed.

"Speaking as an anarchist, we want to create those social conditions that will generate more uprisings and to get more people out in the streets to demand their rights," said 32-year-old protester Paris Kyriakides.

"In the end, the violence that we use is minimal in comparison to the violence of the system uses, like the banks," Kyriakides said.

Earlier Saturday, a crowd of about 1,000 people attended a peaceful sit-down demonstration in Athens and another 1,000 demonstrated in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

One 16-year-old student at the Athens demonstration, who gave only her first name, Veatriki, said young people her age felt their voices were being heard immediately when they smashed a shop window or a car.

She also said young people want to see the policemen involved in the shooting punished and the police disarmed.

The two officers involved in the boy's shooting have been arrested. One was charged with murder and the other as an accomplice. The circumstances surrounding the shooting remain unclear.

Giorgos Kyrtsos, publisher of the City Press and Free Sunday newspapers, said the violent demonstrations revealed widespread public discontent.

"We are entering a long period of economic crisis," Kyrtsos said. "But there is also a deepening social crisis, combined with a weakened state. We are truly at a crossroads."

Kyrtsos, a conservative, was highly critical of the government's handling of the protests.

"This is the only government I remember that has managed to alienate both the rebellious youth and the law-and-order crowd," he said. "It has nothing to offer to anybody."

Christmas shoppers cautiously returned to central Athens earlier Saturday, but many stores had boarded up their windows instead of replacing the glass, for fear of further violence.

Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis greeted shoppers with the city's brass band.

"People came up to me and were telling me that it was the first time they had smiled in days," the mayor said.

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