New violence, including the firebombing of an Athens police station, erupted exactly a week after the police killing of a teenager sparked riots across Greece. Several hundred people earlier held an evening vigil at the scene of his death.
AFP - Greek protesters unleashed a wave of violence on Saturday night, led by the firebombing of an Athens police station moments after silent vigils for a teenager killed one week ago wound down.
Around 100 hooded youths firebombed a station next to the Exarchia district where 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos died from a police bullet last Saturday night, with tear gas being fired in reply and officers in pursuit as the gang fled into dimly lit side streets.
At about the same time, similar numbers in Thessaloniki, Greece's second city, vandalised a gymnasium before holing up behind university walls, beyond the reach of law enforcement.
Shortly afterwards, a police source also reported Molotov cocktails being hurled at three banks, igniting fires, near the Athens Polytechnic from where self-styled anarchist leaders say they are planning a sustained campaign.
Ministry of Environment premises and public property were also targeted under the Athens full moon, with bins set ablaze across the area, police added.
The fresh outbreak of hostilities followed largely silent ceremonies marking the moment Grigoropoulos was killed, and signalled that disaffected protesters may be in it for the long haul.
Greece has been gripped over the past eight days by a deep-rooted protest movement which has succeeded in uniting mainstream and radical youth and that the opposition socialists are seizing upon to press for fresh elections.
The lull during peaceful rallies led by several hundred mourners holding lit candles and posting messages on a wall by the spot where the boy fell, had followed overnight attacks on banks and more tense stand-offs with police.
Some 2,000 demonstrators -- mainly Polytechnic students -- had earlier squared up to police outside the Greek parliament on the eighth day of their dogged challenge to state authorities.
Police had blocked off the central Syntagma Square on Saturday afternoon after an initial sit-down protest by around 300 pupils from the school attended by Grigoropoulos.
With riot police staying well back at this stage, demonstrators held aloft a large banner at the rear bearing the inscription: "06/12/08, Alexis Grigoropoulos, I won't forget."
Student pamphlets also announced rallies planned in front of the Athens police headquarters on Monday and back at parliament square on Thursday, when school pupils and teachers are expected to support the protests.
About 2,000 youths also marched peacefully in Greece's second city, Thessaloniki, on Saturday afternoon, while later some 300 gathered in silence around the city's White Tower monument.
Meanwhile, police had already identified five banks attacked using gas canisters in Athens overnight Friday -- underlining the link between the crisis here and broader economic malaise.
A local party office operated by Greece's ruling conservative party was also hit.
At each location, firefighters had to extinguish blazes even if -- a running feature of the unrest -- there were no victims.
The deeply held anger which has emerged within the lower end of the 15-24 age group, one quarter of whom nationally remain unemployed, could fester for months, if past Greek unrest is taken as a guide.
Saturday's protests come after Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis dismissed opposition calls to quit while attending an EU summit in Brussels.
"At this time the country faces a serious financial crisis... a steady hand on the helm is needed to deal with it," Karamanlis said. "That is my concern, that is the priority of the government, not scenarios about elections and successions.
"The compassion with which all of us ought to treat the distress of young people cannot be confused with blind violence, with the activities of extreme elements."
The offices of lawyer Alexis Kougias, representing two policemen charged over Grigoropoulos's death, have already been trashed, while elsewhere in Europe, demonstrators have blocked traffic on the Champs-Elysees in Paris with hundreds marching in Berlin to show solidarity.
The officer who shot Grigoropoulos says he killed the boy by accident out of self defence due to a bullet ricochet. A ballistics report, said to confirm that the handgun was not pointed at him, has yet to be released.
Date created : 2008-12-13