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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-12-07

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Demonstrations over teen killing trigger new round of violence
  • [02] Reactions to boy's shooting by police
  • [03] Boy's shooting sparks riots in Greek cities

  • [01] Demonstrations over teen killing trigger new round of violence

    Demonstrations held to protest against the shooting of a 15-year-old youth by police triggered another round of violence in Greek cities on Sunday afternoon, with clashes between police and rioters in major Greek cities.

    The march in Athens was once again marked by mayhem that carried on until late into the evening, as youths belonging to far-left groups came to blows with MAT riot police on Alexandras Avenue and later around the area of the Athens Polytechnic.

    The streets of the city were rank with the smell of tear gas throughout most of the day as Alexandras Avenue was turned into a battle field, with pockets of violence between rioters and police along the length of Patission and Stournari Streets.

    Taking part in the march along Alexandras Avenue were protestors belonging to the Coalition of Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and their respective youth movements, as well as several other leftist organisations.

    Though starting off peacefully, the march quickly descended into violence once it turned into Alexandras Avenue and self-proclaimed anarchists began attacking shops on both sides of the road, prompting police to use tear gas that forced the peaceful elements of the march into flight.

    At around 15:00, the rioters succeeded in torching the environment ministry building on the corner of Alexandras Avenue and Harilaou Trikoupi streets, while MAT riot police looked on. The fire threatened to spread to an apartment building next door but was put out by the fire brigade.

    As a result of the fire, the demonstrators in the march started to pull back because they were unable to continue. The march was eventually stopped near the Supreme Court building and spread to the side streets around Alexandras, where demonstrators were playing a cat-and-mouse game with police, setting fire to overturned dumpsters as they passed.

    By Sunday evening, Alexandras Avenue was a shambles, with broken shop fronts, rocks strewn all over the road, vandalised bus stops and torched dumpsters all around. A Veropoulos supermarket at Panagiotara was nearly burnt to the ground, as was a Ford car dealership on the corner of Patriarchou Ioakeim street.

    All along the length of the road, strong fire-fighting forces were attempting to put out fires that had been lit by rioters, who had by then dispersed into sidestreets heading for Exarhia.

    Scenes of violence were also reported at demonstrations taking place in other Greek cities at around the same time, with demonstrators attacking a police station at Ano Poli in Thessaloniki after they were stopped from attacking a police station at the city's White Tower by riot police using tear gas.

    Apart from the usual forms of havoc and damage during demonstrations, rioters also set fire to a container at a metro worksite outside the Thessaloniki University central library, while the city also had to contend with violence between rival football supporters after a game between PASOK and Iraklis.

    Members of far-left student organisations have now indefintely taken over the Thessaloniki Bar Association premises, saying that they intend to use this as a press office to issue announcements and information prompted by the killing of the 15-year-old in Athens.

    Minor incidents continued to be reported throughout Thessaloniki until late in the evening, with more damage to shop fronts, banks and parked cars in the city.

    Tension, violence and use of tear gas also marked marches and demonstrations held in the city of Patras, where police arrested five people, and on the island of Crete during demonstrations in Hania and in Rethymno.

    [02] Reactions to boy's shooting by police

    Deep sorrow and pain for the loss of the 15-year-old boy shot by police in Exarhia was expressed by Greece's political leadership on Sunday, in statements and messages. Several stressed that those responsible must be made to pay, many of them at a meeting of the Union of Public Prosecutors that took place on Sunday.

    Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas said the tragic incident was "absolutely to be condemned" and that blame would be attributed where it belonged. At the same time, he said that society must show presence of mind "so we are not led to uncontrollable situations" and urged everyone to abide by the law.

    Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis expressed his sorrow and expressed faith that the government and its services would find out the truth and make sure justice was done.

    An announcement issued late on Saturday night by PASOK's press office, shortly after the incident occurred, condemned the stance of police for the incidents at Exarhia that resulted in the young boy's death. It stressed the grave responsibility of the political and internal leadership of the police for the incident, saying that this should be accepted in full.

    Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou, speaking at the prosecutors' union, spoke of "arbitrary practices that increase barbarity" and of responsibilities that had to be attributed and stressed that Greece was living through "times of sorrow".

    Also present was the head of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) George Karatzaferis, who proposed setting up a cross-party Parliamentary committee to investigate the event.

    Supreme Court Public Prosecutor George Sanidas, on his part, promised that public prosecutors will do everything in their power to shed light on the case, while the union's president Sotiris Bagias expressed sorrow on behalf of the Public Prosecutors' Union for the death of the boy and also promised that all legal culpability would be prosecuted to the utmost.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) statement condemned the "murder of a 15-year-old boy by a police officer in Exarhia" and said that the responsibility of ND's government for the incident was "great and self-evident," both in general and for the climate it had cultivated in the police force.

    The party also criticised the retaliatory violence that swept Greek cities, however, noting that the reply to state autocracy was not blind arson but direct reaction and organised struggle within a mass movement in order to ensure the true causes were not covered up.

    A KKE delegation went to central police headquarters in Athens on Sunday and lodged a protest over the death in Exarhia.

    An announcement by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said that a "minor was murdered in the centre of Athens by police forces. Without any reason, police shoot and kill young girls and boys as if the country is in a state of war. This murder is a brutal, unacceptable and inconceivable event that indicates the point we have reached and raises a more general political problem."

    SYRIZA leader Alekos Alavanos, in statements on Sunday, said that SYRIZA shared in the pain and rage felt by the boy's family and the anger of all young people over his death.

    "There is no excuse. The 15-year-old is now alongside all the young fighters - Petroulas, Komninos, Koumis, Sotiropoulou, Kaltezas - whose lives were taken simply because they love freedom.

    In New Democracy's Greece, to be a young man or woman is considered a crime. Youth is murdered not just by bullets but by unemployment, insecurity, the inroads of profit in education, with the lack of expectations and prospects," he said.

    Alavanos said that ND could no longer remain the government of the country and called on young people in Greece to reply with peaceful, mass protests, while calling on the government to withdraw the "provocative presence of the MAT riot police".

    An announcement by LAOS on the incident claimed that the incident was the culmination of constantly escalating violence between anti-establishment youths and police.

    "It was a matter of time before blood was shed," the announcement stated, calling for a cross-party committee to look into the incident and ways to deal with the violence initiated by the "strike forces of the self-proclaimed anarchists and related forces in Greece".

    Athens municipality cancels Christmas programme

    Condolences over the teenager's death were also expressed by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis and the Athens municipal council, which said it would participate in the family's mourning for the boy and cancel all events planned in the city to celebrate Christmas, including the hanging of Christmas lights and decorations in central squares and monuments.

    He also expressed sorrow at the incidents that once more struck in the heart of Athens' shopping centre and economic life, further burdening the already heavy atmosphere of the market, promising the municipality would do its utmost to restore the city's normal operation.

    [03] Boy's shooting sparks riots in Greek cities

    Cities throughout Greece were licking their wounds and taking stock of damages on Sunday morning, after the death of a teenager at the hands of police sparked some of the worst rioting seen in the country for decades.

    Hundreds of leftist and self-proclaimed anarchist youths ran rampage through Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Ioannina and Hania, setting fires and smashing up cars, banks and shop windows in incidents that lasted until the early hours of the morning. Several police stations were attacked during the night and police officers in several cities became the targets of violence.

    Dozens of bank branches were torched in Athens overnight and a major fire broke out near the Athens Polytechnic and burned throughout the night, while the fire brigade was unable to get near.

    Fire-fighting forces were set on standby and had to put out serious fires in 16 banks, 20 shops and 12 cars, as well as three major fires on Ermou Street, the city's most popular shopping highstreet, in the historic Monastiraki district and at the Acropolis police station on Leoharous Street.

    The fire set by youths at the Sprider outlet on Kapnikarea Street essentially gutted all three stories of the sporting goods store, while extensive damage was caused by the fire set at the Intersport outlet at Monastiraki Square, which also spread to a nearby car.

    Youths running through the street also set fire to rubbish bins throughout central Athens, while extensive damage was also caused by people lobbing stones and other items through the windows of banks, cars and other buildings.

    Fires were also set at the building housing the police headquarters in Patras and in its car park, dozens of bank branches in Thessaloniki, Patras, Iraklio and Hania, parked cars and the Hania prefecture building.

    Further damage to police patrol cars and bank branches were also caused in Patras at around dawn on Sunday, during a march by some 200 people through the centre of the city.

    Rioters attacked the police headquarters in the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina at around midnight, lobbing stones, bricks and other objects against the building. They then set up a street barricade in Korai Street nearby, causing extensive damage to parked cars and, after being pursued by police, they attacked the police garage.

    Similar incidents were reported in Hania, Crete where police used tear gas to disperse a protest outside the police headquarters but then found that the protestors regrouped and started to wreak havoc in the city's main highstreets, smashing up banks and shop windows.

    Youths in Iraklio, Crete attacked the local police headquarters, the prefecture building, the court buildings and the former police headquarters, while also causing extensive damage to parked cars and banks in the city centre.

    The incidents were a reaction to the shooting of a 15-year-old highschool student by police in Exarhia on Saturday night, after a run-in between a police patrol car and a group of stone-throwing anti-establishment youths.


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