Home News Anti-police riots continue across Greece

Anti-police riots continue across Greece

Published on 09/12/2008

Athens – Fury at the fatal police shooting of a schoolboy erupted in a third day of rioting across Greece on Monday, with youths looting stores, attacking hotels and clashing with the security forces by parliament.

As Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis vowed to bring the unrest under control, riot police were pelted with stone shards by a group of some 300 youths outside parliament while a policeman was wounded in a firebomb attack.

With a general strike now planned to protest the killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on Saturday, the damage to businesses and the country’s reputation as a tourist destination was steadily rising.

Youths attacked cars and looted dozens of stores in Salonika, Greece’s second largest city, and clashes broke out in the central city of Trikala.

The unrest also spread to the popular resort islands of Rhodes where police fired tear gas at protesting pupils and Crete where police buildings were pelted with stones.

There were even scuffles and two arrests outside the Greek embassies in London and the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

As despairing traders sifted through the wreckage left by weekend rioting, Caramanlis appeared on national television to denounce "the extremist elements who exploited the tragedy.

"The unacceptable and dangerous events cannot and will not be tolerated," he added in his first public appearance since the start of the crisis.

The unrest has now left dozens wounded, caused widespread destruction and put new pressure on Karamanlis, already under fire over the economy and a number of scandals.

Some of the worst violence came in Trikala where three police were hurt in clashes when dozens of youths broke off from a larger student demonstration and attacked banks, shops and cars on the city’s main square.

About 300 students and other youths also attacked cars and stores in the northern city of Salonika where a police officer was hospitalised with a hand injury after a firebomb attack on his station.

Police rapidly lost control of a night-time protest in central Salonika where scores of stores were looted by youths.

In Athens, firefighters were called to 24 banks, 35 stores, 24 cars, 12 homes and a district office of the ruling New Democracy party hit by a small bomb. Six police vehicles were also destroyed.

Protestors also set fire to the lobby of the Hotel Athens Plaza on central Syntagma Square and the windows of the nearby Hotel Titania were also smashed, an AFP photographer said.

Riot police responded with heavy discharges of tear gas, sending clouds billowing over the Athens sky.

Another group of demonstrators began smashing up neighbouring shops after being cornered by police in a square near the Athens Polytechnic university.

Several universities in Athens and Salonika were ordered closed for two days from Monday, and Greece’s education minister said high schools would also remain closed on Tuesday in tribute to the slain boy.

Pupils plan a rally in the capital on Tuesday and a general strike planned for Wednesday has become a new focus for the radical left to show its anger.

Greek police have arrested two officers involved in the shooting of the teenager in the Athens district of Exarchia on Saturday.

Grigoropoulos was among youths who had allegedly thrown stones at a police car. One of the two officers left his vehicle to fire three times at the teenager, who was hit in the chest, witnesses said. Grigoropoulos was confirmed dead in a nearby hospital.

Epaminondas Korkoneas, 37, who allegedly fired the shots, was detained on suspicion of homicide while his partner Vassilis Saraliotis, 31, was arrested as an accessory.

Ballistics results are expected by Tuesday.

The violence is the worst to hit Greece in decades.

Exarchia is a bohemian neighbourhood near central Athens that is considered an anarchist stronghold and as such is rarely patrolled by uniformed police.

In 1985, another 15-year-old pupil was shot by a police officer, triggering violent clashes with the police in Exarchia.

Exarchia was also the scene of major student protests in 1973, which led to the fall of the country’s military dictatorship in 1974.