Riot police clash with protesters in Athens again

December 19th, 2008 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Athens, Dec 19 (DPA) Hundreds of demonstrators have clashed with the police in front of the Greek parliament in central Athens, with protesters hurling paint and riot police retaliating with teargas.The clashes Thursday came as 7,000 people marched in further anti-government protests in Athens and thousands more across Greece to protest against the conservative government’s reforms and the recent police shooting of a teenager.

Rallies by unions, students and teachers also took place in the northern port city of Thessaloniki and on the southern island of Crete.

The latest outbreak of violence between demonstrators and the police caused hundreds of frightened Christmas shoppers to run for cover and parents to grab screaming children from a Christmas carousel in the main square.

Retailers, many having recently repaired damage to shops after 13 days of riots, could be seen quickly pulling down their shutters and customers hurrying out.

Firefighters and riot police stopped a group of protesters from burning down Athens’ main Christmas tree, which was replaced this week after the first was torched in last week’s riots.

Hundreds of students continued to clash with police on side-streets throughout downtown Athens and around Athens university buildings, burning at least three cars, including a security van and rubbish containers.

The demonstrations accompanied strikes called by various unions.

All flights in and out of Athens’ International Airport were halted for several hours by a strike by air traffic controllers demanding a pay rise and greater job protection.

Airport employees were joined by civil service trade unions and students who held rallies in Athens. Urban transport was halted while doctors and teachers walked off the job.

The strike follows days of riots throughout Greece sparked by the shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by police Dec 6. The policemen accused of the shooting have been detained and charged with manslaughter.

Over 100 people were injured and about 400 were detained during the protests while hundreds of shops and banks have been fire-bombed, vandalised and looted.

Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis appealed for protesters to suspend demonstrations over the Christmas period in order to allow retailers to make up some of their losses which are estimated to exceed 500 million euros.

Adding to tensions, reports said another teenager was injured in a shooting Thursday.

The details of the shooting were not immediately clear but the boy was being treated in an Athens hospital and was out of danger.

Police spokesperson Panagiotis Stathis said officers were not involved but would investigate to see who was responsible.

Students have called for solidarity rallies across Europe.

On Wednesday, protesters hung two giant banners from the ancient Acropolis with the words “resistance” in five languages.

Across the country students boycotted classes at hundreds of secondary schools and universities, saying they were under occupation.

Greek spokesperson Evangelos Andonaros said the recent rioting has ruined Greece’s image overseas.

The unrest has shaken the conservative government, which has a one-seat majority and trails in opinion polls. Conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has rejected calls to step down, despite growing public pressure.

The country’s worst riots in decades are likely to affect a number of economic, education and pension reforms introduced by the government as trade unions step up their challenge to stop them.

Earlier this week Karamanlis acknowledged some of the problems that had fuelled the anger of young people.

In a speech to parliamentary colleagues Tuesday, he said: “Long-unresolved problems, such as corruption in everyday life and a sense of social injustice disappoint young people.”

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