Greek police on Sunday arrested 19 people in the capital of Athens in one of the most violent showdowns with anarchists in recent years.
The clashes morphed out of a protest march commemorating a student uprising in 1973 when the then-military junta ruling the country sent tanks into the Athens Polytechnic school in central Athens to quash a rebellion.
Attended by some 15,000 people late Saturday, the march through the capital, initially went trouble-free. But as it came to a close, groups of some 300 black-clad youth wearing balaclava scarves and gas masks faced off with police, turning the streets surrounding the Athens Polytechnic into a war zone.
An anti-riot policeman walks past flames as a petrol bomb exploded in downtown Athens on Saturday evening during the demonstrations
Police were forced to deal with flares thrown by rioters as the earlier peaceful demonstrations gave way to frenzied scuffles with officers
Leftists and anarchists march shouting slogans against state repression and commemorate the 1973 Athens Polytechnic Uprising 45th Anniversary
Running street battles were fought through the early hours of Sunday as militant youth hurled Molotov gas bombs at police, breaking, also, slabs of concrete pavement used to stone authorities.
Plumes of acrid smoke engulfed the capital, leaving residents and tourists scrambling for safety as rioting youth later moved to target dozens of parked cars and local shops, setting, also, dumpsters ablaze.
Some 5,000 officers and riot police deployed in Athens alone, retaliated using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse rioting crowds. Water cannons were also deployed to extinguish fires set to the Polytechnic and surrounding facilities.
The violence in Athens set off similar clashes in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, where police faced off about 200 militant youth who hurled rounds of firebombs against them. At least 10 people were detained but they were later released
Anarchists could be seen linking arms and waving banners as they blocked off large parts of the city around the famous university
Anarchists clash from inside the Polytechnic with riot police following a march of thousands which broke into sporadic violence
Last month, university professors walked off work, leaving classrooms empty in a symbolic protest to pressure authorities to crack down on anarchists
In all, police said, scores of rioters were detained but 19 arrested in the clashes that left two officers injured. The arrested anarchists are due to appear before a public prosecutor in Athens Sunday to face criminal charges.
The violent showdown adds to growing lawlessness gripping Greece’s universities which anarchists use as launching pads for their attacks on police, exploiting a contentious law barring police from setting foot on state-campus grounds.
The law was scrapped by a conservative government in 2011 but quickly reinstated last year by the radical left leadership of Alexis Tsipras.
Last month, university professors walked off work, leaving classrooms empty in a symbolic protest to pressure authorities to crack down on anarchists and criminal elements that have overtaken state universities as a result of Greece’s controversial university asylum law.
The leftist government has refused to intervene saying liberal thought should be safeguarded at universities, not policed.
A youth readies to throw a molotov cocktail from the entrance to the Polytechnic School in Athens during Saturday evening’s demonstrations
Policemen walk towards an armoured water-cannon vehicle which has been doused in flames following Saturday’s outbreak of violence
A tree-lined street is awash with flames as protesters tossed molotov cocktails towards police officers trying to quell the violence
Thousands of leftists and anarchists were pictured on Saturday afternoon marching peacefully through the city streets before the violent outbursts