Weekend Riots Greece Braces For More Violence

Two days of rioting has left Athens resembling a war zone with burned-out cars and wrecked shops after clashes between protestors and police sparked by the killing of a teenager. The violence, driven by anger over economic policies, engulfed other Greek cities too and the country is bracing for more riots.

Greece was bracing for more rioting in its capital Athens and other cities on Monday after two nights of violent clashes between thousands of demonstrators and police following the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy by a police officer on Saturday night.

The shooting of the teenager shortly after 9 p.m. on Saturday night acted like a spark for simmering anger over the conservative government's economic policies. What followed was the worst rioting Greece has seen in a quarter of a century.

The rioting has left the center of Athens looking like a war zone. More than 40 people have been injured, over 100 cars have been burned, and dozens of shops and bank branches have been torched. Cars and pedestrians returned to Athens streets on Monday as Greeks went back to work, but the mood was tense. More than 500 Athens city employees began removing the car wrecks from the streets. The violence left behind charred police stations, car dealerships, government buildings and private apartments.

"Cops, Pigs, Murderers!"

Meanwhile, the mayor of Athens has postponed the launch of holiday festivities.

On Sunday, protesters chanting "Cops, Pigs, Murderers" had hurled petrol bombs at ranks of Athens riot police while helicopters clattered overhead and tear gas choked the city. By Sunday night, the Athens police appeared to have exhausted its tear gas supply and resorted to hurling stones back at the masked protestors.

The violence spread across the country, as far as the northern city of Thessaloniki and the tourist islands of Crete and Corfu.

Two police officers have been charged over the shooting -- one with manslaughter and the other as an accomplice. A police statement said one officer fired three shots after his car was attacked by 30 youths in Athens' volatile Exarchia district.

A police official said the officer had described firing warning shots and that the teenager was hit by a richoteting bullet, but witnesses speaking to Greek TV accused him of taking aim at the boy, identified as Alexandros Andreas Grigoropoulos.

"Athens and Thessaloniki under siege" said daily Eleftheros Typos on its front page, while Apogevmatini newspaper headlined: "48 hours of horror."

Despite the arrest of police officers, the Greek Communist Party announced a mass demonstration in Athens for Monday evening and the socialist PASOK opposition, which has taken the lead in opinion polls recently, called for peaceful mass demonstrations.

With a 24-hour general strike scheduled for Wednesday against pension reforms and the government's economic policies, many Greeks fear the demonstrations could last for days. Violence at student rallies and fire bomb attacks by anarchists are common in Greece, and the country's youth is angry at a widening gap between rich and poor.

cro -- with wire reports


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