December 16, 2008

Greeks continue to riot, demand end to police corruption

POLITICS - General anarchy continues to rule in Greece as masked youths attacked the Greek riot police headquarters in Athens and protesters clashed with police in a northern city Tuesday, in a revival of violence sparked by a teenager's shooting.

Police said a group of 30 youths threw petrol bombs and stones at the building, causing extensive damage to seven cars and a police bus parked outside. The central Athens building is also used by traffic police.

After a two-day lull, violence flared across Athens on Tuesday. School children blocked streets and dozens of teenagers gathered outside the capital's main court complex and a maximum-security prison – where some threw stones at police. Similar protests were planned in other parts of town later in the day.

Protesters also briefly occupied a state NET television studio, and interrupted a news bulletin holding banners calling for mass participation in the demonstrations. Footage of a speech by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was suddenly replaced by some 10 youths in the studio.

For more than a minute, they displayed banners reading: "Stop watching, get out onto the streets," and "Free everyone who has been arrested." NET offered no comment.

Protesters have called for riot officers to be pulled off the streets, for police to be disarmed and for growing social inequality to be resolved.

The focus of the protests is now shifting to high school students, who were shocked by the death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in a police shooting and have also voiced concerns at government economic, social and education policies. Lessons have stopped at more than 100 secondary schools that are under occupation by students, according to Greece's Education Ministry.

Scores of university buildings across Greece are also under occupation.

After the Dec. 6 shooting, furious youths smashed and burnt hundreds of shops in Athens' main shopping area, and attacked riot police who responded with massive use of tear gas.

Dozens of people were injured in the rioting, while more than 300 people were arrested. The police officer accused of killing the teenager has been charged with murder and is being held pending trial.

In the northern port of Thessaloniki, riot police fired tear gas Tuesday to disperse some 300 youths throwing fruit and stones outside the city's main court complex. The disturbance followed a court decision that found eight police officers guilty of abusing a student following riots two years ago.

The policemen received suspended sentences ranging from three years and three months for grievous bodily harm to 15 months for being an accessory to the abuse.

Overnight, unknown arsonists attacked three Athens banks with petrol bombs, causing extensive damage. There were no injuries or arrests.

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