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Greek youths attack French institute
December 19, 2008 / 3:41 PM / 9 years ago

Greek youths attack French institute

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek youths firebombed the French cultural institute in Athens on Friday and hundreds of students marched in a 14th day of anti-government protests set off by the police killing of a teenage boy.

<p>Catherine Suard, head of the French Institute, stands in front of broken windows following an attack with stones and firebombs by protesters in Athens December 19, 2008. REUTERS/John Kolesidis</p>

A gang of about 20 youths attacked the French Institute in Athens, burning its exterior and smashing windows in its interior courtyard, but no one was injured in the attack.

Greece’s worst unrest in decades, sparked by the December 6 police killing of a 15-year-old, have fed on anger at youth unemployment, government reforms and the global economic crisis.

“We had already, after the incidents last week, warned (French) travelers to Greece to take care in city centers,” said French Ambassador Christophe Farnaud, who added it was too early to say why the institute had been targeted. “We’re now going to consider what steps are appropriate.”

In western Athens, hundreds of school pupils holding a banner reading “Their Terrorism Will Not Work” marched through the streets to protest against the shooting in the hand of a 16-year-old boy on Wednesday by an unidentified gunman.

A police spokesman said no officers were in the area at the time of the shooting and an investigation was under way.

In a sign that tensions may be cooling, a rally by Greece’s two main union federations outside parliament to protest against the 2009 budget attracted only a few dozen people. Protesters held a banner reading “Down With The Government Of Murderers.”

The protests have caused hundreds of millions of euros in damage, rocking a conservative government which has a one-seat majority and trails the opposition in polls. Some analysts say months of street protests could force early elections.

“This country is experiencing a social and political crisis,” said Dimitris Thodorakis, 21, a university student. “This government has done a lot worse than smash shops, it caused scandals and it doesn’t care for the average citizen.”

<p>A guard stand next to a graffiti outside of the main entrance of the French Institute following an attack with stones and firebombs by protesters in Athens December 19, 2008. REUTERS/John Kolesidis</p>


Police braced for trouble after a concert outside Athens university, the epicenter of the disturbances, due to start in the afternoon in memory of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

“This is a protest concert against the dead-end facing young people. The government must leave,” said Maria Gasparinatou, 35, a bank worker. Hundreds of students gathered at the site.

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The protests have driven Greek bond spreads -- a measure of perceived risk -- to record levels above German benchmark bonds. Ministers say the unrest has tarnished Greece’s image overseas.

On Thursday, groups of protesters hurled stones and firebombs at police outside parliament after they split away from some 7,000 union marchers protesting at economic policies.

“I don’t agree with the riots, but when students called for us to hit the streets I came. I understand their problems and their demands,” said Eleni Spetseri, 60, a lawyer.

The heads of the GSEE private sector union federation and its ADEDY public sector counterpart have vowed to press ahead with demonstrations into next year, despite appeals from retail associations for a break over the Christmas period.

The policeman who shot dead Grigoropoulos has been charged with murder and jailed pending trial. The officer said he fired a warning shot in self-defense against a group of youths.

A ballistic report found the bullet ricocheted before killing the teenager, but further investigation was needed.

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