Attempt at consensus fails as rioting continues

Rioting continued in Athens and numerous other Greek cities for a third full day yesterday as the prime minister’s attempts to achieve some political consensus on dealing with the turmoil failed to find any significant support from opposition parties. Rioters again clashed with police in central Athens after a night of widespread havoc and looting that resulted in the damage done to shops and businesses in the capital being estimated at 1 billion euros. There was also violence in at least a dozen other Greek cities, including Patras, where protesters and police clashed for several hours. For the first time since the death of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, shot by a police officer on Saturday night, there was a serious outbreak of violence in one of Athens’s suburbs. The funeral of the schoolboy in the southern neighborhood of Palaio Faliron was attended by an estimated 5,000 people and reignited tension between protesters and riot police who fought running battles in the area and neighboring Nea Smyrni. The violence continued despite the efforts of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in particular to build bridges with the opposition parties in the hope of discouraging people from continuing with their protests. Karamanlis met separately with the leader of each of the parliamentary parties, who in turn emerged from the talks to assert that the government could not cope with the crisis and that their respective parties are offering a way out. «The only thing that this government can now offer is its resignation,» PASOK leader George Papandreou told his deputies after the meeting, as he called for elections to be held. Apart from the divisions between the parties, there also seems to be a split in the government over how it should be handling this explosive situation. During a meeting of the Inner Cabinet yesterday, some ministers expressed disagreement with the decision of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos to encourage the police to adopt a defensive stance. A Public Issue poll carried out for Kathimerini and Skai indicated yesterday that about two-thirds of Greeks feel the government has not handled the situation well over the last few days. Karamanlis attempted to fend off criticism that his government has not been proactive enough by making a second public address in less than 36 hours. He urged political parties and the public to marginalize the rioters, whom he branded «enemies of democracy.» Officers to wait for ballistic results before answering prosecutor’s questions The police officer alleged to have shot 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on Saturday and his colleague who witnessed the incident are due to appear before a prosecutor today but are expected to refuse to answer questions until they are informed of the results of ballistic and toxicological tests. According to celebrity lawyer Alexis Kougias, who yesterday took on the defense of the two officers, the policemen are unlikely to testify before next week. Epaminondas Korkoneas, a 37-year-old special guard, has been accused of murdering the teenager but he claims that he fired only warning shots, one of which ricocheted on the ground and hit Grigoropoulos in the chest. However, the officer’s version of events do not match witness accounts. Witnesses claim that Korkoneas shot straight at a group of youths and that the officers had not come under any kind of physical attack. The ballistic tests are crucial to the case as experts who examined the bullet that lodged itself in Grigoropoulos’s heart should be able to tell whether it struck the ground or any object before entering his body.

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