(AP) Rioters rampaged through Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki Sunday, hurling petrol bombs, burning stores and setting up burning barricades across city streets as protests against the fatal police shooting of a teenager turned violent.
Youths wearing hoods smashed store fronts and cars. Riot police responded with large amounts of tear gas, while the fire department rushed to extinguish fires. Several bank branches, stores and at least one building were on fire on a major street leading to the capital's police headquarters. Later, clashes also broke out near Parliament.
A police helicopter circled overhead and sirens echoed through the city center, while streets quickly emptied as word of the violence spread. Local media reported several people sought treatment at hospitals for breathing problems.
The circumstances surrounding the shooting of a 16-year-old boy by a police special guard in the downtown Athens district of Exarchia on Saturday night are still unclear. Police have said the two special guards involved claimed they were attacked by a group of youths, and that three gunshots and a stun grenade were fired in response.
But the boy's death triggered extensive riots overnight in cities around the country, with youths burning shops, setting up flaming barricades across streets and torching cars. Dawn on Sunday saw crews cleaning up streets littered with the debris of smashed and burned businesses and banks and the charred remains of cars, while tear gas still hung in the air.
Violence often breaks out during demonstrations in Greece between riot police and anarchists, who often attack what they consider symbols of capitalism, such as banks and up-market shops, as well as diplomatic vehicles and foreign car dealerships. Firebomb attacks are usually carried out late at night and rarely cause injuries.
When chased by police, the anarchists often take refuge inside university buildings or campuses, where under Greek law police are not allowed to enter. Some believe the anarchist movement has its roots in the resistance to the military dictatorship which ruled Greece from 1967-74.
The groups of youths have a long-running animosity with the police, and there have been several incidents in which police precincts are attacked with firebombs.
Exarchia, a downtown district home to bars, music clubs and an increasing number of restaurants, is considered to be the anarchists' home base.
Sunday's riots broke out during demonstrations towards the police headquarters in Thessaloniki and Athens. In the northern city, protesters attacked City Hall, two police precincts, several shops and a bank, as well as vans and cars belonging to several Greek television channels.
The march of about 1,200 people turned violent when participants began pelting the police precinct, already targeted on Saturday night, with rocks and firebombs. Others erected barricades on central roads using blazing trash bins.
Shops were smashed and a firebomb damaged a bank branch, the third such attack in Thessaloniki since Saturday night.
In Athens, violence broke out as more than two thousand protesters marched to the police headquarters.
Groups of hooded youths throwing rocks and petrol bombs fought pitched battles with riot police. After about two hours, the demonstrators broke up, with groups splitting off into different parts of the city. More violence was reported in Exarchia.
Earlier, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos had called for restraint. He expressed the government's deep sadness over the teenager's death, and both he and Deputy Minister Panagiotis Chinofotis submitted their resignations, which were not accepted by the prime minister.
Police said the Saturday night riots left 24 policemen injured, with one remaining hospitalized Sunday morning. Rioters damaged or burned 31 stores, nine bank branches and 25 cars, including six police cars, police said in a statement. Six people were arrested, five of them for theft from damaged stores and one for carrying a weapon, it said.
Full details for damage from Sunday afternoon's riots were not immediately available.
The two officers involved in the shooting have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, as has the police chief in the Exarchia precinct.
Pavlopoulos promised there would be a thorough investigation into the teenager's death and pledged to punish anyone found responsible.
"It is inconceivable for there not to be punishment when a person loses their life, particularly when it is a child," Pavlopoulos said Sunday. "The taking of life is something that is not excusable in a democracy."
By Associated Press Writer Elena Becatoros; AP writers Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki and Dimitris Nellas in Athens contributed to this report.
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