Athens Calm After Violence

An anarchist with a flag attacks a photographer as more rioters in the background smash a free press distribution booth in central Athens on Wednesday, Dec. 10. Journalists and, especially photographers, have been the targets of enraged rioters over the five days of mayhem that have followed the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old youth by a police officer. More rioting took place Wednesday in the Greek capital outside Parliament and adjoining streets. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
By  | 

ATHENS, Greece – Athens was calm Sunday after eight days of the worst riots Greece has seen in decades, sparked by the police killing of a teenager.

Traffic returned to normal in the center of town and an open-topped double-decker bus carried tourists round the city's main sights. The popular cafes in the Thissio area under the Acropolis were busy, and couples took their young children for a Sunday walk.

But Greek youths who have protested daily since the boy's death have vowed to remain on the streets until their concerns are addressed. Protesters are angry not just at the police but at an increasingly unpopular government and over economic issues.

A newspaper poll published Sunday showed the governing conservatives' popularity at a dismal 20.6 percent, 5.6 percent below the main opposition Socialists. However, 55 percent of respondents said neither party seemed competent to handle the situation.

The Focus poll of 1,000 people for Real News gave a 3.1 percent margin of error.

Violence has wracked Greece every day since the death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, spreading quickly from Athens to more than a dozen other cities and leaving at least 70 people injured. Hundreds of stores have been smashed and looted, and more than 200 people arrested.

Late Saturday and early Sunday, youths in Athens attacked a police station, stores and banks and fought running battles with police, as candlelit vigils were held to mark a week since the shooting.

A new candlelit vigil is planned for Sunday evening at the site of the shooting. A separate protest is scheduled in western Athens.

While most of the protesters have been peaceful, the tone of the demonstrations has been set by a violent fringe. And more young people have been willing to join those fringe elements than in the past.

"In the end, the violence that we use is minimal in comparison to the violence the system uses, like the banks," said 32-year-old protester Paris Kyriakides. "Speaking as an anarchist, we want to create those social conditions that will generate more uprisings and to get more people out in the streets to demand their rights."

In a poll released Sunday, some 62 percent of respondents said the reactions to the shooting were inexcusable, compared with 35 percent who believed the violence was justified. The poll of 1,000 people gave no margin of error.

According to another poll, Greeks see more in the violence than a simple reaction to the shooting.

Asked whether the riots were a social uprising, 60 percent responded yes. Some 64 percent considered police were unprepared for the violence.

The poll of 520 people published in the Kathimerini newspaper gave a 4.5 percent margin of error.