Violence by youths angry over the killing of a teenager by the police raged across Greece for a third day on Monday as thousands of police officers failed to contain some of the worst rioting in recent years.
A march through downtown Athens on Monday night turned violent, as demonstrators threw concrete slabs, rocks and flaming gasoline bombs at the officers and smashed storefronts. A government Christmas tree along their path was set on fire.
Rioting also intensified in the country’s second largest city, Salonika, and spread to Trikala, a city in the agricultural heartland.
Schools were shut in Athens, the capital, and high school and university students spilled onto the streets, leading to scattered violence throughout the day. But the evening demonstration, which had attracted thousands and was organized by the Communist Party, was accompanied by some of the worst of the violence of the past several days.
A strip of five-star hotels was ransacked, including the Grande Bretagne, where a life-size scene of “The Nutcracker” was knocked down, and the Athens Plaza, where a guard said guests had to be evacuated. A small fire burned in the lobby of the Foreign Ministry, The Associated Press reported.
The rioting began Saturday, shortly after a 15-year-old was fatally shot in what the police said was a confrontation with a mob. The government has charged one police officer with premeditated manslaughter in the case and another as an accomplice.
Senior security officials said they had put the country’s 45,000-member police force on alert in one of the biggest security mobilizations since Athens was host to the 2004 Summer Olympics. Panayiotis Stathis, a spokesman for the Athens police, said security forces were “trying to control the situation” while using restraint in putting down any protests.
As night fell Monday, rioters were barricaded at two university campuses in the capital. The Greek police and military have not been permitted to enter college campuses since 1973, when tanks quashed a student uprising at Athens Polytechnic, leading to at least 22 civilian deaths.
Panagiotis Sotiris, 38, a spokesman for Uniting Anti-Capitalist Left, a coalition of leftist groups that helped take over the Athens Law School on Monday, told Reuters that the violence was connected not only to the killing, “but is a struggle to overthrow the government’s policy.”
“We are experiencing moments of a great social revolution,” he said.
In the northern city of Salonika, 300 students battled with the police on Monday, overturning scores of trash cans and setting them ablaze. In Veroia, about 40 miles from Salonika, an estimated 400 stone-wielding students clashed with the police, who retaliated with tear gas. In Trikala, a student march turned violent and a police officer was injured.
In Athens, some 15,000 police officers fanned out across the city, the authorities said.