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Hundreds of students have refused to return to school and several of them protested Thursday at local police precincts. Several student groups staged sit-ins along 10 major streets in Athens, at 120 high schools across the country, and at 15 universities.

At the Athens Polytechnic University -- a major flashpoint with clashes between anarchists and police -- municipal crews were able to clear the streets for the first time in days. So much debris was in the streets from the protests that in some places it was half a foot deep.

Anarchists stopped the crews from clearing two streets and taking away burned-out vehicles, saying they wanted to use the cars for barricades in what they said would be street fights Thursday night.

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The only major clash Thursday was outside the large Koyrdallos prison in Athens, where youths faced off violently with police.

Shopkeepers and businessmen seemed determined to reclaim their city from the protesters who have wreaked havoc and caused destruction across Athens. Since Wednesday, groups of merchants have been seen confronting hooded, masked youths involved in the protests, and even fighting with them.

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Journalist Anthee Carassava and CNN's Eileen Hsieh contributed to this report.

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