Petrol bombs, tear gas cloud anti-war march

An anti-war protest in police-thronged central Athens yesterday degenerated into extensive rioting as hooded youths threw petrol bombs and stones at riot police forces and vandalized shops and banks. Police said at least 105 people had been detained by late yesterday for questioning in connection with the riots, which broke out just after noon in Syntagma Square – the starting point for a 10,000-strong demonstration by left-wing groups and labor unions against the US and British invasion of Iraq – and followed the course of the march to the US Embassy on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. The march was held on the occasion of the European Union meetings in Athens, with organizers expressing displeasure at the presence, in the capital, of the premiers of Britain and Spain, who backed the attack on Iraq. As hooded anarchists started throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at policemen monitoring the demonstration from the Ermou Street end of Syntagma Square, prompting a massive tear gas barrage, other marchers tried to break through a riot police cordon sealing off the northern end of the square to stop demonstrators from approaching the Zappeion Hall, where visiting EU dignitaries were assembled. The march moved on toward the US Embassy, but at several points along the route anarchists attacked police, who responded with tear gas. A second march in the evening wound its way to the embassy without incident. Police had allowed protesters to march on the US Embassy, but banned entry to most other parts of the center. A traffic ban was in force in large parts of the city.