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Greek rioters target banks, government

Greek youths hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police who responded with stun grenades and tear gas Friday, as the seventh straight day of riots triggered by the police killing of a teenager.
A protester hits a riot police officer with a pole during clashes on the sidelines of a demonstration in central Athens, Greece, on Thursday.Petros Karadjias / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Greek youths hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police who responded with stun grenades and tear gas Friday, as the seventh straight day of riots triggered by the police killing of a teenager tapped into anger at the government's fiscal policies.

Greece's prime minister, however, rebuffed calls to resign and hold early elections, insisting Friday that a steady hand was needed in times of financial crisis.

Terrified workers in banks along Athens' central Syntagma Square watched in fear as protesters shattered windows just replaced days ago after being damaged in the worst riots Greece has experienced in decades.

Protesters also smashed their way into the main branch of the National Bank of Greece, sending employees fleeing in panic Friday. One protester walked up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside Parliament and threw a black-and-red anarchist flag at it.

The riots broke out within hours of the police shooting death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos death last Saturday, and have since expanded to encompass general anger over economic hardship. Hundreds of stores and dozens of cars have been destroyed or damaged in cities across the country.

"What started as an outburst of rage over Alexandros' killing is now becoming a more organized form of protest," said Petros Constantinou of the Socialist Workers Party.

The violence has hammered Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' increasingly conservative government, which already faced vociferous opposition to economic and social reforms.

Karamanlis, whose party has only a single seat majority in parliament, explicitly rejected mounting calls for him to resign, saying Friday that Greece needed to focus instead on the global financial crisis.

"That is my concern and the concern and the priority of the government, and not scenarios about elections and successions," Karamanlis said in Brussels, where he was attending an European Union leaders meeting on climate change.

Scores arrested, injured
Protesters, occupying high schools and universities, are demanding a reversal of public spending cuts, the resignation of the country's interior minister and the release from custody of arrested riot suspects.

About 100 people have been arrested during the riots and 70 injured.

Protesters also briefly occupied a private Athens radio station Friday and read a statement on the air. A municipal building in the northwestern city of Ioannina was also occupied.

The two police officers involved in the shooting have been jailed pending trial, one for murder and the other as an accomplice. They claim they had been attacked by a group of youths and that one officer had fired warning shots, but witnesses have disputed the claim.

The officers' defense lawyer, Alexis Cougias, said ballistics testing of the bullet that killed Grigoropoulos showed it had ricocheted. The ballistics report has not been released.

Greek police will review their firearms policy, Deputy Minister for Public Order Panayiotis Chinofotis said Friday.

"I have no objection to a major review ... of the (police) use of firearms," he said in Parliament, but warned "this is a situation that requires extensive study and not political exploitation."

Clashes spill over to other countries
The unrest has also spilled over into other European cities, raising concerns the clashes could be a trigger for opponents of globalization, disaffected youth and others outraged by the continent's economic turmoil and soaring unemployment.

Protesters in Spain, Denmark and Italy have smashed shop windows, pelted police with bottles and attacked banks this week, while in France, cars were set ablaze outside the Greek consulate in Bordeaux.

On Friday, about 10 Turkish leftists staged a peaceful protest outside the Greek consulate in Istanbul, carrying a banner reading: "We're saluting the resistance of the Greek people."

"End the police terrorism!" the group chanted before dispersing.

Students and other protest groups plan to hold daily marches and roadblocks in the capital next week.

More on: Greece | Globalization