Police alert after riots

In the wake of two attacks in 24 hours on French targets in Athens and Thessaloniki, police have been put on standby amid fears that youths expressing solidarity with rioters in France could try to cause trouble ahead of Thursday’s anniversary of a 1973 student uprising. The measures were prompted by yesterday morning’s attack on the French Institute in central Athens in which about 50 hooded youths hurled paint at the building’s facade, smashed windows and spray-painted anarchist slogans. The attack followed a similar incident outside the French Institute in Thessaloniki on Thursday night, when around 40 anarchists, holding banners expressing their support for rioting youths in France, vandalized the entrance to the building. The youths eluded arrest. Meanwhile, members of leftist groups yesterday staged peaceful demonstrations outside the French Embassy in Athens and in the center of Thessaloniki. Police said dozens of people have been brought in for questioning, as is customary ahead of the November 17 anniversary, when violence often mars marches commemorating the military junta’s bloody suppression of a student rebellion at the Athens Polytechnic. A total of 5,000 officers are to be deployed this year, with 1,500 to be posted around the site of the Polytechnic alone to discourage would-be trouble-makers, according to police, who fear that two weeks of French unrest could be mimicked in Greece by anarchists seeking a pretext to cause trouble. The dean of Athens Polytechnic, Andreas Andreopoulos, said it was extremely likely that this year’s commemoration would focus on the social unrest in France. He appealed to prospective demonstrators «to participate in a peaceful anniversary.»

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