December 13, 2008 / 2:34 AM / 11 years ago

Sporadic violence erupts in Athens week after killing

ATHENS (Reuters) - Small bands of Greek rioters hurling firebombs attacked an environment ministry building, shops and banks in Athens on Saturday during an eighth day of protests following the killing of a teenager by police.

Protesters sit in front of candles featuring the name "Alex" during a peaceful protest in front of the parliament in Athens December 13, 2008. Small groups of Greeks held peaceful rallies in Athens on Saturday to honour a teenager whose killing by police a week ago triggered the worst rioting in decades. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis

The latest, sporadic violence by a few hundred people followed a candlelit evening vigil marking a week since 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot dead, sparking Greece’s worst rioting in decades.

Police sources said groups of dozens of protesters armed with firebombs battled police in parts of the capital, including the leftist Exarchia neighborhood where the teenager was killed by a police bullet on December 6.

“They threw stones at police in Exarchia, launched fire bombs against an environment ministry building and smashed four shops and two banks in central Athens,” a police official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

Throughout most of the day, Athens had appeared calmer than in the past week. Even the night-time violence was confined to pockets of the city of around four million and was on a far smaller scale than the rampage that destroyed hundreds of shops earlier in the week.

Families and students clad in white and holding flowers staged peaceful rallies from around noon (1000 GMT) to pay tribute to the slain teenager.

Several people said they were tired of violent protests, blamed on an anarchist fringe tapping into resentment over political scandals and the impact of the global slowdown.

But as night fell, hooded youngsters wearing gas masks could be seen roaming around Exarchia, setting garbage bins on fire, throwing rocks and smashing shop windows.

Riot police manning street corners responded by firing tear gas. Some restaurants closed down early for fear of attacks, although outside the neighborhood the city was quiet.


Banners in the main square outside parliament, where hundreds of people converged during the day, read “The state kills” and “Down with the government of murderers” but the atmosphere was calm.

“The murder of Alexis was the last straw. Being a young man in Greece today is a crime ... They are stealing our dreams,” said one leaflet distributed in the square on Saturday.

The week-long unrest, which spread to 10 cities in Greece and sparked sympathy protests in other European countries, has caused an estimated 200 million euros ($265.3 million) of damage in Athens alone. More than 400 people have been detained.

The people who gathered outside parliament voiced anger at the police, whom they accuse of heavy-handedness.

“We’re here to show our grief and sorrow because no one understands us. They are killing children for no reason,” said Irini, 16, a pupil at the school Grigoropoulos attended.

The policeman charged with killing the teenager has been jailed pending trial, along with a colleague. He says he fired warning shots after being attacked by youths in a leftist Athens neighborhood and that one bullet ricocheted.

Demonstrators take part in a peaceful protest outside Greece's parliament in Athens December 12, 2008. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Friday his country could guarantee the safety of its citizens, after a seventh day of violent protests sparked by the police killing of a teenager. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis (GREECE)

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has vowed to guarantee safety, rebuffing calls to resign and hold early elections.

“Right now, the country is dealing with a serious, big international financial crisis ... It needs responsible policies and a steady hand on the wheel,” Karamanlis said on Friday.

Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Michael Roddy

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