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Clashes continue as Athens marks anniversary of death

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Police were forced to retreat as protesters threw objects at them

Clashes between police and protesters continued overnight in Athens as it marked the first anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager.

Riot police fired volleys of tear gas and fought running street battles with demonstrators who pelted them with rocks and set fire to rubbish bins.

However, the protests have been nothing like the riot scenes of last year, a BBC correspondent says.

Six thousand police have been deployed on the streets of the Greek capital.

At one point about 200 masked demonstrators were holed up in Athens's neoclassical university building, smashing marble chunks off the steps to use as missiles against police.

AT THE SCENE
Malcolm Braban
Malcolm Brabant, BBC News, Athens
Police officers corralled demonstrators into restricted areas and denied them the chance to run amok. Snatch squads on motorbikes roamed the streets and carried out a number of arrests.

Some officers were pulled from their machines, and there were reports of bike riding policemen lashing out at people with their truncheons.

The government has carried out a number of reforms designed to give the police a more human face. But these clashes will not have won them any friends amongst Greek youths.

Many young people, who had their first taste of rebellion last year, remain angry with the authorities.

The overwhelming perception of teenagers and university students is that the force remains institutionally violent.

City officials said the university dean suffered head injuries when youths raided the building and was rushed to hospital.

Clashes also continued overnight at Athens Polytechnic, where masked youths emerged to hurl rocks and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas.

Earlier in Thessaloniki - Greece's second-largest city - demonstrators threw petrol bombs at police and smashed the storefront of a Starbucks cafe, Associated Press reported.

To head off trouble, riot police carried out a series of raids on Saturday across Athens, arresting more than 150 people, reports said.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens says they have been forming snatch squads to deal with breakaway groups apparently intent on causing damage.

Greece's government warned it would have a zero tolerance policy towards violence.

"We want to send a clear message, we won't tolerate a repeat of the violence and terror scene in central Athens, we won't hand Athens to vandals," said Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis.

Memorial service

Family and friends of teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos held a memorial service in the Exarchia district of Athens on Sunday evening to mark a year since his killing.

Anarchist flag at Athens University
At one point an anarchist group took over buildings at Athens University

They appealed for calm, but posters had appeared in the capital saying: "We won't forget, we won't forgive."

On Saturday, two cars were set alight in the Exarchia.

Police said up to 150 foreign anarchists arrived this weekend from Italy, France and other European countries.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou had acknowledged the weekend was a "crucial moment" for his new socialist government and for the nation.

"All of us, citizens, political leaders, parties, students representatives, we must protect Athens," he said.

Two police officers have been charged with the murder and attempted murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos. Their trial is due to begin in the New Year.



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