Greek capital left crippled after clashes (Lead)

December 9th, 2008 - 2:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Athens, Dec 9 (DPA) The capital Athens and dozens of other cities in Greece were left crippled Tuesday after several days of arson and looting, triggered by the fatal shooting of a teenager by the police.Described as the worst riots in decades, thick black smoke, flames and tear gas had engulfed central Athens for hours as students set fire to cars, banks, shops and several buildings including the offices of state airline Olympic Airways, the foreign ministry, a luxury department store and Greece’s main law school.

While calm had returned to Athens at dawn Tuesday, new protests were expected later in the day following the boy’s funeral, which was scheduled to take place Tuesday afternoon in the seaside district of Paleo Falio.

Hooded protestors, mostly in their teens, had control of the city late Monday, looting stores and taking anything that could be used as a weapon.

The police arrested more than 77 rioters and more than 100 people were injured, media reports said.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis planned to hold an emergency meeting with President Karolos Papoulias and the leaders of Greece’s political parties on Tuesday.

Widespread riots first erupted late Saturday shortly after the shooting of the teenage boy by a police officer in the bohemian Athens district of Exarchia.

Although the circumstances surrounding the shooting still remain unclear, the officer has been arrested and charged with manslaughter. A coroner’s report showed that the boy was shot in the chest.

In a show of solidarity, high school and university students joined self-styled anarchists in the riots which raged out of control after news of the shooting got out.

Thousands of students, armed with fire bombs and stones, also clashed with police and smashed storefronts in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, and similar violence was reported in at least eight other cities across Greece.

The damage nationwide is estimated in millions of euros.

Abroad, demonstrators attempted to take over the Greek embassies in London, Berlin and Cyprus.

Public unrest has grown with the conservative government’s austerity measures, with unions regularly demonstrating against privatisations, pension reforms and the cost of living, and this latest incident could topple the unpopular conservative government in Greece, where 20 percent of people live below the poverty line.

A new 24-hour general strike was called for Wednesday, and analysts predicted a new wave of riots will strike the country.

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