US embassy cable - 08ATHENS164

EXTREMISTS CLASH IN ATHENS RIOT

Identifier: 08ATHENS164
Wikileaks: View 08ATHENS164 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Athens
Created: 2008-02-04 14:50:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV KCRM SOCI ASEC GR
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO8958
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTH #0164 0351450
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041450Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1151
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS ATHENS 000164 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KCRM, SOCI, ASEC, GR 
SUBJECT: EXTREMISTS CLASH IN ATHENS RIOT 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- PROTECT ACCORDINGLY 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1.  (SBU) Competing demonstrations of far-right and leftist 
groups turned ugly on February 2 when violence broke out 
between the two groups.  Downtown streets were closed, 
several hundred riot police were mobilized, and several 
businesses were damaged. The rioting lasted for 10 hours. 
Several people were injured, and three people required 
hospitalization.  Although up to 100 people were detained, 
there have been no arrests.  Greek commentators are 
criticizing the police for an insufficient response.  End 
Summary. 
 
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Competing Demonstrations Turn into Riots 
---------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (U) On February 2, more than 400 leftist extremists and 
about 100 members of the far-right group Chrysi Avghi (Golden 
Dawn) clashed in a riot in central Athens.  Chrysi Avghi had 
announced a demonstration in downtown Athens commemorating 
the 1996 standoff with Turkey over Imia/Kardak island.  Greek 
leftist/anarchist groups then announced a 
counter-demonstration at the same time.  Although the 
demonstrations were planned for the afternoon, individuals 
from both groups arrived earlier than expected, and began to 
clash at around 11:00 a.m.  The violence between the two 
included rock throwing and assault with bats/pieces of wood. 
The Greek anti-riot police mobilized (as they had planned to 
be on location with greater numbers at the later time) and 
eventually separated the two groups.  There were several 
minor injuries. Two people were sent to the hospital with 
head injuries after being struck by rocks.  Another man 
required minor surgery after sustaining knife wounds to the 
abdomen. 
 
3.  (U) After police used tear gas to separate and disperse 
the protesters, many of the leftists/anarchists regrouped and 
joined with members of another planned demonstration against 
genetically modified foods in front of Athens University in 
the downtown area.  On this occasion, the protesters 
barricaded the street and hurled rocks at police officers. 
They were eventually disbanded. 
 
4.  (U) Greek police announced that they had detained and 
questioned 100 individuals, but that they have made no 
arrests.  There are varying estimates of damage from the 
riots.  Greek police publicly announced that six banks, one 
store, and four CCTV cameras had been damaged. 
 
5.  (U) There was no damage to U.S. facilities and we are 
aware of no Americans having been affected by the riots.  As 
is routine, Greek police notified RSO of the planned 
demonstrations and Embassy personnel were notified via e-mail 
on Friday to avoid the areas where the demonstrations were 
planned. 
 
6.  (SBU) Comment: Greek commentators have criticized the 
Greek police for its response -- both for failing to be 
better prepared for the clash and for failing to arrest any 
of those responsible. Some question whether the police were 
lenient or even compliant with Chrysi Avghi-- TV footage now 
on YouTube shows baton-wielding young right-wingers allegedly 
interspersed with police. Greek police tend to be cautious in 
pursuing arrests against individuals associated with public 
demonstrations, as they have little confidence that the 
judicial system will effectively prosecute any individuals 
charged with crimes associated with public protests/political 
expression. End Comment. 
SPECKHARD 

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