Greece rattled by new clashes
Shoppers panic as violence erupts
ATHENS - Masked youths set up burning barricades and threw firebombs and chunks of marble at riot police yesterday, after a protest march erupted into new fighting that sent Christmas shoppers and panicked parents fleeing to safety.
Mothers snatched children from a carousel in the main square. Waiters stumbled from cafes choking on tear gas fired by police at rioters trying to burn the capital's Christmas tree, replaced just days ago after another tree was torched.
After two weeks of unrelenting rioting set off by the fatal police shooting of a teenager, a slogan spray-painted outside the Bank of Greece summed up the mood as Greeks prepared for Christmas: "Merry crisis and a happy new fear."
But protesters' call for Europe-wide demonstrations of support - urged in banners defiantly unfurled from the ancient Acropolis on Wednesday - met with no apparent response.
Yesterday's clashes broke out in front of Parliament at Syntagma Square during a demonstration against police brutality. The Dec. 6 death of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos unleashed rage that has fed off widespread dissatisfaction with economic hardship, social inequality and the unpopular conservative government's policies.
About 200 youths wearing masks put up burning barricades in the streets of the Kolonaki district, throwing gasoline bombs and hammering chunks of marble and concrete off buildings to hurl. Police answered with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades.
As the fighting escalated, parents hurried their children away from the carousel in Syntagma Square. Riot police formed a line at the replacement Christmas tree and fired tear gas to drive off youths trying to set it ablaze.
Businessmen and shoppers ran for cover on Voukourestiou Street, while motorscooter and motorcycle drivers on a nearby road screeched to a halt, blinded by the tear gas.