Shots fired in Athens protest

December 24, 2008 12:00 am

, ATHENS, December 24 – Shots were fired at an anti-riot van in Athens on Tuesday and youths damaged a police car as some 2,000 students marched in protests that have rocked the capital since police killed a teenager.

At the start of the midday march, roughly a dozen youths toppled a police vehicle, with the officers inside escaping unscathed.

Earlier in the day, shots were fired at a riot police van in the Goudi district of Athens, missing the 23 officers on board but hitting the engine. One of the van’s tyres also burst.

A group calling itself "Popular Action" claimed responsibility for the strike on Tuesday evening in an anonymous phone call to, the news website said.

Police said they found seven shells and two bullet remains from a 7.62 calibre rifle apparently fired from inside a park that forms part of the Athens university campus.

Greek media said a Kalashnikov rifle was used in the attack.

"All possibilities are under investigation," police spokesman Panagiotis Stathis told state television NET.

Youths have targeted police stations and torched police vehicles in three weeks of sporadic unrest over the killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police bullet.

Around 2,000 university and high school students peacefully marched on parliament, shouting slogans against the police and the conservative government which is clinging to power by a one-seat majority in parliament.

Some protesters claimed that Grigoropoulos’ death was not an accident, saying "the government, the cops and the state are guilty" and calling Prime Minister Costa Karamanlis "a fascist" who "can’t stop us."

Upon reaching parliament, a group of demonstrators set fire to a large paper pig’s head sporting a policeman’s cap and dumped it at the feet of riot police.

Meanwhile a group of high school students staged a separate rally in front of the education ministry slated to be their last before the holidays.

The students, who are expected to decide in early January whether to continue their protests over the teenager’s death, claim they still occupy about 700 schools and several universities in Greece. The education ministry claims only about 100 are occupied.

Grigoropoulos was fatally shot on December 6 by a police officer who claims he fired into the air whilst under attack by a group of youths.

The boy’s death unleashed a wave of anger which initially degenerated into the worst rampage Greece has seen in decades with hundreds of stores in several cities vandalised and dozens looted in the days following his death.

The violence has since largely subsided, allowing Athenians to salvage a narrowed-down Christmas shopping season.

But skirmishes with young protesters continue around occupied university buildings which are off-limits to police under education laws dating from the restoration of democracy from the seven-year army junta in 1974.


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