Greece braces for a second week of protests

Greece is getting ready for a second week of unrest as protesters announce new demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday. Riots that began when a teenager was killed by a police bullet have become a rallying cry for government reform.


AFP - Greek militants warned of new protests Sunday after an attack on an Athens police station became the latest clash with authority over the police killing of a teenager.

About 100 protesters attacked a police station where two officers accused over the December 6 death of Alexis Grigoropoulos, 15, are based.

The police station is near the Exarchia district where the shooting took place and where Athens Polytechnic student protest leaders met on Sunday to plan new action.

Pamphlets announced rallies at the Athens police headquarters on Monday and at parliament square on Thursday, while students in Thessaloniki distributed manifestos via motorbike.

The new unrest erupted after vigils were held to mark the week since Grigoropoulos's death and triggered a wave of violence with banks targeted and a late-night standoff between riot police and youths outside parliament.

Police said the overnight arrest tally reached 86.

Molotov cocktails were hurled and fires set off at three banks near the Polytechnic.

Protesters also struck an environment ministry office, torched luxury cars and blocked roads with blazing bins.

At Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, youths vandalised a gym before retreating behind university walls. Two blasts hit Greek Communist Party offices in the country's second city.

Greece's constitution bans police from entering educational establishments, a legacy of a crackdown on a 1973 student protest against the then military dictatorship in which 44 demonstrators were killed.

The week of protests have reignited radical groups against Greece's right-wing government.

Opposition socialist leader George Papandreou on Sunday demanded fresh elections, and an Athens office of the ruling conservative party was targeted by youths employing slogans including "killer state."

Speaking at a meeting of his PASOK party, Papandreou said Karamanlis's government "ignores the calls of society, is incapable of steadily driving the country towards change and is afraid of the people."

"It is wasting away, collapsing and dissolving into a dead-end... Its political time is finished."

Mourners congregated Saturday at the spot where the boy fell after some 2,000 demonstrators had already squared up to police outside parliament.

The shrine again drew a crowd after dark Sunday, with adjacent cafes housing local agitators.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has rejected calls to quit, saying the country needs "a steady hand" to deal with economic downturn, "not scenarios about elections and successions."

However, with a quarter of 15-to-24-year-olds unemployed, anger would grow in coming months as more and more people lose their jobs in Greece, a top union official said.

"A massive wave of redundancies will kick in come the New Year when, according to our estimates, 100,000 jobs will be lost, which represents an additional five percent on the unemployment rate," said Stathis Anestis of the General Confederation of Greek Workers.

A former socialist minister, Yannos Papantoniou, blamed the "tragic consequences of accumulated failures and (political) impasses." Socialists held power for two decades until September 2007.

Solidarity protests have been held in European capitals including Paris, Berlin and Moscow.

A Sunday poll suggested most Greeks see the violent protests as a "popular uprising," not driven by "minority activists."

Seventy-six percent of those questioned were "dissatisfied" with the police response. Just 20 percent approved of Karamanlis's handling.

Before being charged, the officer who shot Grigoropoulos told a magistrate he had shot in self-defence and the boy was killed when the bullet ricocheted.



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