Greek protesters target police, torch cars in Athens demanding prison closure

Masked youths hurl stones and use a green laser beam during clashes with riot police in Athens March 17, 2015. (Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis)
Protesters in Athens threw petrol bombs at police and set cars on fire as they demanded the release of jailed political prisoners. They also want the Syriza government to keep its promise to close down the controversial high-security ‘Type C’ prisons.

The unrest took place in the downtown area of Exarcheia in the Greek capital, famous for having links with the anarchist community. Cars were set alight, while demonstrators attacked police with projectiles, such as Molotov cocktails. The protesters, who numbered around 60 and had links with the Conspiracy of Fire Cells guerilla group, even began to break up paving slabs to use them as weapons against law enforcers.

Riot police stand in front of a destroyed trolley bus during clashes with masked youth in Athens March 17, 2015. (Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis)

In one incident, a car was set on fire. However, the fire engine sent to put it out was pelted with fire bombs. Demonstrators were calling for the abolition of the so called, ‘Type C’ high-security prisons, criticized by inmates for their brutal and inhumane conditions.

The jails had been introduced by the previous government, but since coming to power, the left-wing Syriza party has promised to scrap them, with a vote on a draft bill expected to take place in the near future in the Greek parliament.

A masked youth places a wooden beam at a barricade during clashes with riot police in Athens March 17, 2015. (Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis)

The protesters also demanded the release of a number of political prisoners, several of whom have recently gone on hunger strike at the maximum security Domokos Prison. In particular, they seek the release Savvas Xeros, who was jailed for being a member of the November 17 Marxist group. Supporters of Xeros say he is suffering from serious health problems.

Riot police stand in front of a destroyed trolley bus during clashes with masked youth in Athens March 17, 2015. (Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis)

Conspiracy of Fire Cells had previously stormed Syriza’s party office in Athens on March 8 to show support for the inmates. According to local reports, around 60 people took part in the assault, with members of the party barricading themselves within their offices.