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Three injured as Greek police clash with protesters
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police clashed with youths hurling petrol bombs in Athens on Monday during protests to mark the anniversary of the 2008 police killing of a teenager that triggered the country's worst riots in decades.
Three people were injured as thousands marched through the Greek capital in protests the authorities had feared would turn violent amid rising public discontent as Greece battles a debt crisis with stringent austerity measures.
The government's clampdown on spending in exchange for an IMF/EU bailout has worsened the country's recession and fuelled youth unemployment, and fears over whether it can pay for its huge debts have shaken the euro.
Several hundred hooded youths threw firebombs, stones and bitter oranges at police in full riot gear, who returned with several rounds of teargas and percussion bombs. Protesters damaged bus stops and set fire to garbage cans.
"One protester was injured in clashes with police. Two bystanders were also rushed to hospital, one man with head injuries and a woman with breathing problems from the teargas," said a police official who requested anonymity.
Police had arrested 42 people for causing damage by the end of the day. Small groups of hooded youths played cat-and-mouse and clashed with police during the night in the central Athens district of Exarchia, where the teenager was killed in 2008.
VIOLENCE GRIPS ATHENS
Earlier on Monday, about 3,000 students marched through Athens shouting anti-government slogans, such "Resistance is the only way".
Several hundred threw stones, sticks, oranges they had picked from trees on the street and bottles at police, and smashed shop windows on Syntagma square near parliament, a Reuters witness said.
Protesters also threw red paint at police and the historic central bank building.
Another march by about 5,000 leftists followed and more violence erupted later on Monday, with extended clashes on the main Panepistimiou Avenue and other central streets. Police helicopters hovered overhead as teargas choked the city centre.
"Anyone who wants to honour this child, who has become a symbol for our youth, should avoid exactly such acts of violence and destruction," said government spokesman George Petalotis.
Street were nearly empty as traffic was banned on main avenues and many shops had placed metal grills on their windows in anticipation of violence. Authorities said 2,000 police were posted around the capital and another 1,000 were standing by.
The 2008 shooting of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos sparked Greece's worst riots in decades and paralysed Athens for weeks. Two policemen were convicted for his murder this year.
"We are here to condemn the killing of Grigoropoulos, but we also want to protest against this government which follows EU and IMF orders. These measures are brutal," said 34-year old Iokasti Alexiou, a mechanical engineer, covering her face from teargas with a scarf.
At the spot where he was killed, people gathered to stand in silence. Many left flowers or candles by a marble plaque reading: "To the memory of young Alexis, he was only 15".
His mother, Tzina Tsalinian, made a rare media appearance on Monday, telling state NET TV: "Children should not live in fear and suspicion. The state must assume its responsibility and protect the children, so no other child suffers the fate of my son."
(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou; Writing by Dina Kyriakidou; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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