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Clashes break out in Athens on anniversary of teenager's killing

ATHENS (Reuters) - Police and protesters clashed in Athens on Friday on the fifth anniversary of the killing of a teenager by police, an incident that sparked Greece’s worst riots for decades.

Thousands of protesters, many dressed in black, marched through the streets chanting “Cops, Pigs, Murderers” and holding banners reading “Alexis lives”, in tribute to 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

Hundreds of riot police were deployed on the streets of Athens and around parliament, as lawmakers debated the 2014 budget plan, which inflicts a new wave of austerity cuts as the country struggles to exit the crisis.

The march was peaceful, but fighting later broke out in the bohemian Exarchia district, the site of the shooting. Police fired teargas at protesters hurling petrol bombs and stones at them and setting garbage containers on fire.

Earlier in the day, police arrested 10 youths after a separate march by 1,500 students earlier in the day.

On December 6 2008, hours after Grigoropoulos was shot dead, thousands took to the streets of the Greek capital, torching cars and smashing shop windows.

Fuelled by anger at unemployment and economic hardship in the prelude to Greece’s worst financial crisis in decades, the riots lasted for weeks, turning central Athens into a no-go area and helping topple the then-conservative government.

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In 2010, two policemen were convicted for the murder.

The anniversary of the student’s killing in recent years has become a focal point for anti-austerity protests, though demonstrations against the government this year have largely fizzled out amid a sense of resignation among Greeks.

Tensions have risen again in recent months after anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death by a supporter of the far-right Golden Dawn party.

Less than two months later, two Golden Dawn members were gunned down outside a local party office, in Athens. An anti-establishment guerrilla group that claimed the attack said it was to avenge the rapper’s death.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan