- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2009

ATHENS, Greece — Masked youths smashed store windows and hurled rocks and firebombs at riot police who responded with tear gas Monday in a second day of violence during commemorations of last year’s fatal police shooting of a teenager.

The death last year of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos led to some of the worst rioting Greece had ever seen, with gangs of youths smashing, looting and burning stores in cities across the country for two weeks, protesting heavy-handed police tactics.

Monday’s clashes broke out during a demonstration by about 3,000 people, mostly high-school students, through the center of Athens. Several dozen youths at the tail end of the march attacked riot police with rocks, firebombs and firecrackers, smashing some of the bus stops, telephone booths and storefronts not damaged in Sunday’s demonstration.

Protesters injured a passer-by who attempted to intervene, beating the middle-aged man unconscious. Police detained at least three youths.

Some demonstrators tried to prevent clashes, shouting at the groups of youths instigating the violence, but to little avail.

“I’m here to play at beating up the police. What’s your problem?” one young rioter retorted to a student who admonished him for causing trouble.

Demonstrators also scrawled anti-police graffiti and stenciled a photograph of Grigoropoulos on store windows and walls along the demonstration route, while others set fire to garbage cans overflowing due to a strike by municipal workers.

But unlike the previous day, police on Monday surrounded the buildings of Athens University in the center of the city, preventing protesters from entering the campus — which police are barred from — and launching attacks from there. Masked youths had occupied the building for several hours on Sunday, smashing through the locked door and injuring the university’s dean, who remained hospitalized Monday.

Minor clashes also broke out during a march of about 2,000 people in Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki in the north, where riot police fired tear gas to disperse youths pelting them with rocks.

Police said Monday that 784 people had been detained, including 136 people who were arrested, for public order offenses in connection with the demonstrations across Greece during the 48 hours from Saturday until early Monday. Those detained included 58 foreigners, including people from Turkey, France, Germany, Italy and Albania.

Five demonstrators and 16 police were injured in Athens during Sunday’s demonstration — including a woman who was seriously hurt when she was struck by a police officer who lost control of his motorbike as he charged into the capital’s central Syntagma Square.

Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said Monday that the police officer involved was under investigation, and had visited the injured woman in hospital.

Still, the two-day violence was far more limited than the extensive riots that gripped the country last year immediately after Grigoropoulos’ death. The new Socialist government, which was voted into power in early October, had vowed a zero tolerance approach to troublemakers during this year’s demonstrations.

“Those seeking a repeat (of 2008) did not achieve their aim,” Petalotis said. “The message is that the cities where protests took place are not defenseless.”

Associated Press writers Derek Gatopoulos in Athens and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki contributed to this report.

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