Monday, December 8, 2008
Greek Anarchists On A Rampage
How is it that Greece went from being the cradle of democracy and reason to being... well... Greece?
More rioting breaks out in Greek cities
THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Riot police fired tear gas at youths smashing storefronts and throwing rocks at a police station in this Greek port city on Monday, one of scattered confrontations around the country on a third day of rioting sparked by the fatal police shooting of a teenager in Athens.
Gangs of youths overturned trash cans and set them on fire in Thessaloniki, one of several cities where rioting began Saturday.
Running battles between riot police firing tear gas and about 400 high school students throwing rocks also broke out Monday morning in Veria, a town about 40 miles (60 kilometers) west of Thessaloniki.
Violence was reported in the central city of Trikala, where one police officer was reportedly injured, while authorities braced for more possible riots during demonstrations planned across the country, including in Athens, in the central city of Larissa and on the island of Corfu.
In the capital, high school students blocked streets across the city to protest the 15-year-old's death, while dozens of youths were still barricaded at two university campuses in Athens. Under Greek law, the police are barred from entering university campuses.
Rioting, much of it by self-styled anarchists, broke out across the country within hours of the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Saturday night in the often volatile central Athens district of Exarchia.
The circumstances surrounding the death are still unclear. 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 policeman intended to shoot the youths. The two policemen have been arrested and charged, one with murder and the other as an accomplice.
About 30 civilians were reported injured on Sunday. Authorities have said 37 policemen were hurt in Athens over the weekend by objects thrown at them by protesters.
"Under the circumstances, I think we achieved the best possible result. Human life was protected, both that of the demonstrators and the police, that's the most important thing," police spokesman Panayiotis Stathis said.
In Berlin, 15 Greek youths occupied their country's consulate to protest the Athens shooting, the mission said without elaborating. Berlin police say there have been no violence or disturbances. The last time a teenager was killed in a police shooting — during a demonstration in 1985 — it triggered weeks of rioting.
Schools across Athens and the neighboring port city of Piraeus will remain closed in mourning for the dead teenager.
The Police Officers' Association has apologized to the boy's family, and President Karolos Papoulias sent a telegram to his parents expressing his condolences.
"This death was a blow to the country," Papoulias said. "I am certain that those responsible will be held to account."
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 anti-Establishment principles, and have long-running animosity toward the police.
The country has experienced frequent and sometimes violent demonstrations recently against the increasingly unpopular conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, which has been rocked by a land swap scandal and has struggled to push through economic reforms. The opposition Socialists are now consistently ahead in opinion polls for the first time in eight years.