New Violence Wracks Greece Ahead Of Teen's Funeral

By  | 

Hundreds of teenage protesters pelted police with rocks and scuffled with officers in front of Parliament Tuesday before the funeral of a 15-year-old boy whose shooting by police set off three days of rioting across Greece.

Socialist leader George Papandreou called for early elections, saying the conservative government could no longer defend the public from rioters.

The government has a single-seat majority in the 300-member Parliament and opposition parties blame hands-off policing for encouraging the worst rioting the country has seen in decades.

"The government cannot handle this crisis and has lost the trust of the Greek people," Papandreou said.

The funeral of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was to be held in a seaside suburb of Athens Tuesday afternoon. Schools and universities across Greece were closed and hundreds of teachers, university lecturers and students rallied in central Athens. In the western part of the city, officials said groups of high-school students attacked four police stations but riot police did not respond and no injuries were reported.

Saturday's fatal shooting drove angry students to join with violent anarchist groups who have a long-standing animosity with police.

Commentator say the growing hostility by young Greeks toward authority is fed by public discontent over low wages, frequent public corruption scandals and a strong historic distrust of government rooted in past political upheavals.

The worst violence occurred late Monday when gangs of masked and hooded youths screaming "Cops! Pigs! Murderers!" set up burning barricades across Athens streets and fought pitched street battles with riot police firing volleys of tear gas.

There was more rioting across Greece, from Thessaloniki in the north to cities in Crete and the holiday island of Corfu. By early Tuesday, hundreds of stores, cars, banks and buildings in about a dozen cities had been torched, smashed or looted.

"Everyone has let our children down ... Every day I see that students are becoming more hostile toward us and figures of authority," said Christos Kittas, who resigned as the dean of Athens University after the rioting spread to campuses.

Riot police used tear gas and clashed with rioters but stood back as youths smashed windows and torched stores along Athens' main commercial streets. Athens police announced 89 arrests late Monday, while more than 100 other people were detained for questioning. Twelve police officers were injured.

Greece's interior minister insisted police had successfully protected human life, and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said there would be no leniency for the rioters.

"No one has the right to use this tragic incident as an alibi for actions of raw violence, for actions against innocent people, their property and society as a whole, and against democracy," he said after an emergency meeting with the country's president, Karolos Papoulias.

Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said 1,000 trash bins were set alight in the capital, most used as burning street barricades.

"These people respect nothing, look what they have destroyed," Kaklamanis said. "These people cannot be considered Greeks."

He said Christmas celebrations would take place as planned because he did not want to give the "worthless rioters" the satisfaction of seeing them canceled.

Authorities said more than 100 stores and banks were damaged or burned Monday in Thessaloniki.

Two police officers have been arrested and charged in the teen's murder, one with murder and the other as an accomplice.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

Click here for copyright permissions!

Copyright 2008 Associated Press