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More clashes feared ahead of demonstrations

Video by Nicolas GERMAIN

Latest update : 2008-12-19

Athens police are braced for more clashes after nearly two weeks of protests initially sparked by the police killing of a teenager on Dec. 6. Community leaders have launched a petition calling on the government to take action to restore calm.

AFP - Athens police braced for more protests Friday after nearly two weeks of clashes, as the government faced growing pressure over its handling of the crisis sparked by the police killing of a teenager.

   
The offices of a French cultural institute in the city was targeted by masked youths even before the day's scheduled demonstrations involving trade unions as well as student groups.
   
Students planned a protest in a city suburb where another teenager, the son of a union leader, was wounded in a mysterious shooting incident on Wednesday night, and were to stage a concert at Athens University.
   
The main trade unions meanwhile organised separate rallies outside parliament against what they called an "anti-workers" budget up for vote on Sunday.
   
After Thursday's violence in Athens, which left city centre residents choking in tear gas, the main opposition Pasok socialist party again called for early elections, arguing that the government had lost control of the situation.
   
About 100 leading figures including academics, magistrates and economists launched a petition calling on the government and the political world as a whole to get a grip on the situation to re-establish confidence.
   
The press too expressed the growing concern in the country, with both the Socialist daily To Vima and the liberal Kathimerini critical of the government's inability to end the crisis.
   
Even the right-wing daily Eleftheros Typos wrote: "The majority of conservative deputies are calling for immediate changes, the time for a reshuffle has come."
   
Athens police said they had arrested eight youths -- none of them school or university students -- after several hours of street battles with dozens of militants in the city centre Thursday.
   
They had broken off from an orderly left-wing demonstration of about 5,000 to confront police officers. During the course of Thursday's clashes three cars, a Greek flag and tables and chairs from neighbourhood cafes were burned.
   
Police said that two of those they arrested were minors.
   
A group of about 20 youths broke into the Institut Francais around midday Friday, breaking the windows and throwing a petrol bomb which briefly started a fire, police and diplomatic sources said.
   
Nobody was hurt in the attack, which lasted five minutes, said a French diplomat, the youths having restrained the building's guardian without hurting him.
   
The Institut Francais is in the centre of the capital, near the site of the current unrest.
   
Students had organised a midday demonstration at Peristeri, in the western suburbs of the capital.
   
This was where the 16-year-old son of a leading official in the Greek Teachers Federation -- which backs demonstrations across Greece -- was wounded by a small-calibre bullet Wednesday night.
   
Hit in the hand, he had to be operated on after spending a night in hospital. Police insisted Thursday that none of their officers were in the area at the time of the shooting, but the government has promised a inquiry.
   
The incident has already been denounced by the teachers' unions.
   
In several universities and 700 schools across the country, school and university students continued their occupations, said student representatives. The education ministry put the figure at about a hundred.
   
Protests have rocked cities across Greece since the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos after he was stopped by two policemen, one of whom has been charged with homicide, on the night of December 6.

Date created : 2008-12-18

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