Hundreds hold vigil at firebombed Athens bank


GREEK PROTESTS:POLICE AND security forces maintained a heavy presence on the streets of Athens yesterday as the country began to pick up the pieces after several turbulent days of protests and violence.

The deaths in Wednesday’s riots seemed to have calmed rather than inflamed the nation’s mood, as hundreds of people maintained a vigil outside the bank where three employees died after the building was petrol-bombed.

There has been a wave of opposition to the violence, which protest organisers say was the work of a small group of masked demonstrators.

The charred and blackened entrance of the Marfin Egnatia Bank, on one of Athens’s main shopping streets, has been transformed into a makeshift shrine, with passers-by stopping to leave floral tributes, candles, teddy bears and handwritten messages.

“What can I say?” read one card, attached to a bouquet of roses.

“Look what you have done,” read a handwritten note, referring to a pregnant woman who was among the victims. “You have killed an innocent woman and her poor child!”

Standing outside the bank yesterday, Alexandrous Securous (58), an advertising executive, said those responsible for the attack did not represent the views of the vast majority of people.

“Those people, they are not revolutionaries, they are killers,” he said. “We are all angry and frustrated with the situation, but taking innocent people’s lives is not the solution. It will just make matters worse.”

Anthi Vaulguri (27) said most people could not understand why ordinary bank employees should be targeted.

“We’re very sad about this – they were ordinary working people,” she said.

“It wasn’t their fault. Right now, we’re all anxious about the future. Yes, people are angry. But we do not support what this small group of idiots did.”

Police say the three victims had been trapped in the Marfin bank in the centre of Athens and overcome by smoke fumes after the building was set alight.

The dead have been named as Angeliki Papathanasopoulou (32), Paraskevi Zoulia (35), and Epaminondas Tsakalis (36).

Ms Papathanasopoulou, who was four months pregnant, was found dead on a balcony. Mr Tsakalis was found dead on the stairs and is believed to have choked to death. All three were junior bank officials.

Protest organisers have been quick to point out that Wednesday’s violence erupted after a mostly peaceful demonstration by around 100,000 people.

They argue that the government has unfairly labelled the entire movement as a lawless mob.

Outside the parliament yesterday, the area was quiet for the first time in days as groups of tourists stopped to take photos of guards outside the temple of the unknown soldier.

Just a day after the Greek government voted to accept tough austerity measures in exchange for international bailout loans, there have been growing calls for greater political unity among the main parties.

Greece’s president, Karolos Papoulias, is hoping to chair a conference of party leaders early next week, where they will be called on to express joint support for the constitutional rule of law and opposition to violence.

The prime minister, George Papandreou, is due to attend, but it is unclear yet whether the main opposition parties will take part in the talks.