By Renee Maltezou
ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek police fired teargas at hundreds of rioting youths on Monday, in the second day of violent protests to mark the one-year anniversary of the police killing of a 15-year-old boy.
About 5,000 students, workers and leftists marched to parliament. The teenager’s death in Athens’ bohemian Exarchia district last year triggered the worst riots in Greece in decades fueled by the public’s discontent over the economy.
“Everyone on the streets, not at the balconies! Cops, pigs, murderers,” chanted demonstrators.
Hundreds of hooded youths broke from the march to hurl stones and sticks at police, damaging cars and bus stops.
A group of youths in black grabbed bitter oranges from trees in central Athens and flung them at police, and some threw stones at the window of a store full with customers. Other demonstrators disagreed with the violence.
“This won’t change anything, but if 5 million people take to the streets we might have a chance,” said 51-year old school teacher Christos Fousekis, as he watched a hooded boy smashing a corner shop wall with a piece of marble.
“I’m here because I want to drink my coffee in Exarchia without being afraid a policemen will kill me,” he said.
Schools, ministries and tax offices closed down and transport was halted as teachers and public servants walked off the job for three hours to join nationwide demonstrations.
Riot police formed a cordon around the Athens university area, where most of the clashes took place the day before, stopping more rioters from rallying there after the march.
Two policemen were injured and about 30 youths were detained in Monday’s unrest in Athens, police said. In the northern city of Thessaloniki police fired teargas at dozens of violent youths, who broke from a march of 2,500 people.
“The clashes are not significant overall, the protests went as expected,” said a police official who declined to be named.
More than 400 have been detained over the weekend across the country.
Greece’s new socialist government has deployed more than 6,000 police on Athens streets saying it was determined to avert a repeat of last year’s unrest that hit the capital and major cities causing millions of euros of damage.
In contrast to 2008, when rioters and looters rampaged unabated for weeks, police said mass detentions prevented more widespread damage this year.
“The message sent is that Athens and Greece’s major cities are not defenseless,” said government spokesman George Petalotis.