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World News

Banner on Acropolis urges Europe-wide protest

ATHENS (Reuters) - Protesters hung banners from the Acropolis in Greece on Wednesday calling for demonstrations across Europe, in the twelfth day of protests since police shot dead a teenager.

Protesters hold a banner at the hill of the Acropolis in front of the Parthenon in Athens December 17, 2008. Protesters hung banners from the Acropolis in Greece on Wednesday calling for demonstrations across Europe, in the twelfth day of protests since police shot dead a teenager. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis

“Resistance” read one of the two pink banners in Greek, German, Spanish, and English, which protesters unfurled from the stone wall of the ancient hilltop citadel in Athens. “Thursday 18/12 demonstrations in all Europe,” said another.

Greece’s worst protests in decades, sparked by the shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, have fed on simmering anger at youth unemployment and the world economic crisis.

“We chose this monument to democracy, this global monument, to proclaim our resistance to state violence and demand rights in education and work,” one protester, who declined to give his name, told Reuters Television. “(We did it) to send a message globally and to all Europe.”

The demonstrations have sparked sympathy protests from Moscow to Madrid and European policymakers, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have expressed concern they might spread as the downturn bites and unemployment rises.

Protesters demanding the release of people arrested during the riots occupied the headquarters of the GSEE private sector union federation and hung anti-government banners from the building.

The ADEDY public sector workers federation has called a three-hour work stoppage on Thursday against government policy and the teenager’s killing, and rallies are planned for Friday.

Thursday’s stoppage will ground all but emergency flights into Greece between 1000 and 1300 GMT, air traffic controllers said, and disrupt urban public transport services.

Hundreds of shops and cars were wrecked in 10 Greek cities during last week’s violence. The National Confederation of Commerce estimates 565 shops were damaged in Athens alone, costing 200 million euros and causing more than 1 billion in lost sales during the Christmas shopping period.

The protests have rocked the conservative government, which has a one seat majority and trails in opinion polls. They have driven Greek bond spreads -- a measure of perceived investment risk -- to record levels above German benchmark bonds.

As the intensity of the protests has cooled this week, students have begun to stage sit-ins. About 20 students occupied state TV on Tuesday, interrupting a news broadcast to briefly hold up banners reading “Against State Violence”.

Scores of schools and university buildings, some of them badly damaged, remain occupied by students. The policeman who shot Grigoropoulos has been charged with murder and jailed pending trial, while his partner was charged as an accomplice.

The policeman says he fired a warning shot in self-defence against a group of youths in the volatile Exarchia neighbourhood, but the family’s lawyer says he aimed to kill without significant provocation.

Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Deborah Kyvrikosaios

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