Solidarity with Athens Police Squash Violent Hamburg Protest

While police and demonstraters continued to battle on the streets of Athens over the weekend, German police broke up a large sympathy protest after it grew violent.

Scores of German riot police confronted an estimated 950 protesters in Hamburg over the weekend who were expressing their sympathy for student protesters in Greece by marching under the banner of "Solidarity is a weapon."

Police reported that the protest actions -- which allegedly included numerous members of the far-left anarchist scene -- were broken up on Saturday after they escalated to rioting, with special police units and journalists being pelted with bottles, iron rods and fireworks. Four police officers were reported injured.

Protest actions, some violent, also continued to bring chaos to the streets of Athens over the weekend as police battled riots and lawlessness sparked by the Dec. 6 police killingof 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

On Saturday, a memorial service to the slain boy turned violent and led to scattered groups of masked youths showering police with rocks and Molotov cocktails and igniting at least six police vehicles and numerous garbage containers. As black smoke lofted above the skyline of the vast city, heavily armed police broke up crowds of protesters with tear gas.

Other incidents Saturday included the fire-bombing and destruction of a credit-reporting agency and clashes around the 18-meter-high (60-foot) Christmas tree in Syntagma Square between police and protesters trying to hang trash bags from its branches. The original tree was burned down by protesters on Dec. 8, the third day of riots, and replaced soon thereafter.

Although the protests were initially meant as a response to perceived police violence, they have developed into a wider protests against political corruption and diminished job prospects triggered by the current economic crisis.

A Search for 'Solidarity'

On Sunday, the protest actions in Athens also spread to include foreign institutions. An estimated 30 masked individuals attacked the French Institute in Athens' upscale Kolonaki district, smashing windows and throwing a Molotov cocktail at guards stationed at its entrance, according to the Athens daily Kathimerini.

The paper speculated that the attacks might have been motivated by protesters' hoping to forge links between student protesters in France and the unrest in Greece. In support of this theory, the paper cited graffiti found near the French Institute reading: "Spark in Athens. Fire in Paris. Insurrection is coming" and "France, Greece, uprising everywhere."

Also on Sunday, more than 1,500 people gathered for a peaceful protest in support of a 16-year-old boy who was shot in the hand last Wednesday under mysterious circumstances, according to Kathimerini. While police statements had originally claimed that the boy had been hit by an air-gun pellet, recently released tests confirm that the boy was hit by a 38 milimeter gun from a distance.

Though the Greek government has expressed its hope that the demonstrations and violent outburts would die down because of protest fatigue and the holiday season, labor leaders and student groups have pledged to continue their actions into the New Year.

jtw -- with wire reports


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