Massive anti-war rally is marred by violence

Tens of thousands of demonstrators participated in one of Athens’s largest anti-war rallies in recent years on Saturday, winding up the Fourth European Social Forum amid scattered incidents of vandalism against embassies and businesses. At least 17 people were arrested in connection to a series of assaults including the vandalism of guard posts outside the French and Italian embassies, the torching of a Citibank branch and the firebombing and stoning of the Athens Concert Hall, the Hilton Hotel and shops on central Ermou Street. A group of vandals also set fire to a police patrol vehicle near the Supreme Court, prompting riot officers to fire tear gas. According to police, five officers and one citizen were injured during the clashes. Organizers said some 80,000 people attended the rally – more than double the official police estimate. Greek Police Chief Anastassios Dimoschakis said the protest march had stretched to 8 kilometers at one point, hindering police containment efforts. But Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras was satisfied with the outcome. «We had to show hospitality to foreign visitors and forum participants while restraining the activists. We succeeded in both these goals,» he said. Yesterday, Forum members concluding their four-day summit issued a declaration condemning «wars of occupation» in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East as well as the «nightmarish» prospect of war in Iran. They also announced plans for demonstrations – an international day of action on October 7 in support of immigrants without residence papers and protests on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Rostock in June next year.