Youths run amok in central Athens

Dozens of hooded youths wielding crowbars and sledgehammers went on the rampage in central Athens and Thessaloniki in broad daylight yesterday, destroying banks, storefronts and cars but causing no injuries. The worst riots were in Athens, where around 150 self-styled anarchists converged in the upmarket district of Kolonaki at around noon before running amok, causing widespread damage and startling shoppers. After the riots, the youths scattered leaflets calling for the release from prison of Giorgos Voutsis-Vogiatzis, the son of a prominent left-wing MP jailed after a 2007 robbery in Athens. Sources told Kathimerini that the rioters had used the premises of the Athens Law School, whose entrance is on Sina Street near Kolonaki, to prepare for their spree of vandalism. According to the sources, the venue had been used for the same purpose by those who attacked leading criminologist Yiannis Panousis with iron bars last month while he was giving a lecture. Witnesses to the spree in Kolonaki yesterday said the attackers were brazen. «They went berserk, they were jumping onto the roofs of cars and smashing them up,» the owner of a vandalized vehicle told Kathimerini. Earlier in the day, about 40 youths wreaked widespread damage in the center of Thessaloniki, trashing the facades of two banks and several shops with iron bars and wooden sticks. Again there were no injuries reported. Police dispatched to restore order in both cities were too late to make any arrests. Police spokesman Panayiotis Stathis said that the force was dealing with more than mere vandals. «Setting fire to a car is one thing but here we are dealing with something more worrying - preplanned operations by organized groups,» he said.