ISTANBUL - As the street protests over the death of a teen in a police shooting rage in Greece, governments are concerned the violence could spread accross Europe. Hundreds of people were detained in Spain, France and Denmark over copycat incidents and politicians are wary of a more revolt.
The Greek riots were triggered by a specific police shooting and sustained by broad opposition to a weak right-wing government, and as such are unlikely to spread directly to other territories. But as of yesterday, hundreds of people were detained across the Europe, including Spain, France and Denmark, as protestors attacked banks, shops, police stations and cars in an apparent show of support for rioting Greeks.
"A violent reaction comparable to what has happened in Greece is possible, if there's some kind of spark to light the fire, such as a youth's death," Roberto d'Alimonte, professor of political science at Florence University told Agence France-Presse. "We can't ignore the phenomenon of imitation, which is very significant right now," Alimonte said. "At the moment, Italian youth is frustrated and worried for its future. The crisis is only going to make this worse."
Greece in far worse situation
In Spain, however, sociologist Andreu Lopez, insisted that the situation in Greece -- where an unstable government is confronted by youth with shrinking prospects -- was far worse than elsewhere. "It would be impossible for what is happening in Greece to happen in Spain," insisted Lopez, co-author of a recent report on young people in Spain. "Young Spaniards have many more opportunities and responses to the situation, even in a time of crisis, whether it be grants for studies, state aid or support from families," AFP quoted the sociologist as saying.
The violence Wednesday night in Madrid and Barcelona was the first in Spain in apparent solidarity with Greek protesters. In the Spanish capital, some 200 people targeted a police station, stores and banks, and officers detained nine people, a police official told the Associated Press.
Arsonists torched two cars outside a Greek consulate in southwestern France yesterday, scrawling slogans in support of the youth riots gripping Athens, according to an account by the Associated Press. Police found graffiti on a wall opposite the consulate, and on a nearby garage door, reading "Support for the fires in Greece," "Insurrection Everywhere" and "The Coming Insurrection."
’Beware of revolt’
Against this background, official in Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office said he was "following the situation carefully," and President Nicolas Sarkozy told ruling party deputies to beware a revolt against falling living standards. According to a lawmaker who dined with the president and his supporters on Wednesday, Sarkozy warned that the crisis could provoke widespread protests. "Just look at what is happening in Greece," he reportedly said.
Meanwhile, Greek offices in Moscow and Rome were hit by firebombs and in Denmark 63 protesters were detained. Police spokesman Michael Paulsen in Copenhagen said some of the 150 people who were demonstrating late Wednesday hurled bottles and paint at riot police.
Just as in Greece, students in France, Italy and Spain have been angered by underfunding in universities. Last month, thousands of young Italians took to the streets to protest youth unemployment of more than 23 percent. France is no stranger to university unrest, and politicians fear protests by middle-class students could re-ignite rioting by the young immigrants.