Signs of protest hung at Greek Acropolis
Youths call for European support
ATHENS - Protesters hung giant banners off the Acropolis yesterday calling for mass demonstrations across Europe, heaping embarrassment on a government reeling from Greece's worst riots in decades sparked by the police shooting of a teenager.
Two pink banners were unfurled over the walls of the ancient citadel that towers above central Athens and could be seen from miles away. One bore the word "Resistance" in large black letters in Greek, English, Spanish, and German.
The other called for demonstrations throughout the continent today, when students plan major marches in Athens and Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, to protest the death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, killed in a police shooting on Dec. 6.
The government was furious at the use of Greece's most famous monument.
"There can be no justification for this action," spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said. "This hurts the image of our country abroad. . . . It is unacceptable."
Although sparked by the youth's death, the riots were fed by dissatisfaction with the increasingly unpopular conservative government and widespread anger over social inequality and economic hardship.
The violence spread quickly across the country with masked and hooded youths fighting with riot police night after night. The violence left hundreds of shops and bank branches smashed, burned, and looted, and dozens of cars torched. Retailers say the damage will cost them $2 billion in lost income.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has rejected opposition calls for early elections, saying the country needs a steady hand to deal with the international financial crisis.
There has been concern that the unrest could spill over Greece's borders, with shows of support in several European countries, including Spain, France, and Germany. German police say a solidarity protest is planned for today in Berlin and is expected to be attended by about 500 people.
After more than a week of violence, Greece's mainly young protesters have begun changing tactics to attention-grabbing stunts.
The banners were displayed the day after a group of youths forced their way into Greece's state television studios, disrupting a news broadcast of a speech by Karamanlis.
The youths appeared live on national television behind black banners that read: "Stop watching, get out onto the streets" and "Free everyone who has been arrested." In Thessaloniki, protesters broke into three local radio stations, agreeing to leave only after a protest message was read on the air.
More than 300 people have been arrested since the riots started, and the main courthouse in Athens has been the scene of tense confrontations between riot police and angry students demanding the release of those detained during the unrest.