More Violence Wracks Greece Before Teen's Funeral

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Hundreds of teenagers fought police in front of Parliament Tuesday as mourners gathered to pay respects to a 15-year-old boy whose shooting by officers 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 best thing it can do is resign and let the people find a solution ... we will protect the public."

The funeral of Alexandros Grigoropoulos was being held in a seaside suburb of Athens, far from the demonstrations. More than 3,000 mourners, many of them teenagers, gathered to pay their last respects and lay wreaths.

The circumstances surrounding Grigoropoulos' shooting are unclear, but the two officers involved have been arrested; one has been charged with murder and the other as an accomplice. A coroner's report shows the boy was shot in the chest.

Schools and universities across Greece were closed and hundreds of teachers, university lecturers and students rallied in central Athens. Teenagers pelted police with rocks and scuffled with officers in front of parliament. 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.

Commentators 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.

"It's very simple - we want the government to fall. This boy's death was the last straw for us," Petros Constantinou, an organizer with the Socialist Workers Party, said as he left a protest in central Athens. "This government wants the poor to pay for all the country's problems - never the rich - and they keep those who protest in line with police oppression."

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

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.

Police said rioters damaged or destroyed 200 stores and 50 banks in Athens, while 20 buildings were damaged by fires, including downtown hotels that were temporarily evacuated late Monday.

A further 100 stores were damaged in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

There was more rioting across Greece, from cities in Crete and the holiday island of Corfu, to Thessaloniki, where fresh violence broke out Tuesday leaving two protesters with light injuries.

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 angrily criticized "worthless rioters" who set the city's Christmas tree alight late Monday.

"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.

On Tuesday, the Bank of Greece announced a 12-month delay on interest payments for loans by shopkeepers affected by the rioting. But the Athens Traders Association encouraged its members to sue the government, saying police had failed to protect them.

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Associated Press writers Elena Becatoros and Menelaos Hadjicostis contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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