Violent clashes between members of the Roma community and riot police broke out in Greece’s second-largest city on Monday after a 16-year-old was shot in a police chase.
Around 1,500 protesters walked along the streets of Thessaloniki, smashing shop windows and throwing Molotov cocktails at the police, who used tear gas and stun grenades as a counter.
The Roma teenager was currently in critical condition, authorities said, after being shot in the head by a police officer in the early hours of Monday morning.
According to state TV ERT, the boy filled up his vehicle at a petrol station near the port city of Thessaloniki and drove away without paying. A gas station employee reported the unpaid bill was €20 ($21).
The officer who allegedly pulled the trigger was arrested and suspended from the force, authorities in Thessaloniki stated. He is scheduled to appear before a prosecutor on Tuesday on charges of attempted manslaughter.
The authorities stated the teenager tried to ram police officers who were pursuing him on motorbikes to avoid getting arrested.
The officer in question then fired two shots to try and stop the attack on the motorcycle he was a passenger on.
Roma decry discrimination
While the name of the victim was not publicly shared, relatives identified him as being a member of the Roma minority. In 2021, another Roma youth was killed in a police pursuit near the port of Piraeus.
Members of the Greek Roma community alongside human rights activists accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against the minority.
The number of Roma men who have been fatally shot or injured in the last couple of years during confrontations with police has been high. Authorities argue that in most cases, the men were allegedly seeking to evade arrest after breaking the law.
Politicians criticize police brutality
Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said about the shooting that “the value of a human life can never be measured by any amount of money.”
A spokesman for Greece’s main opposition left-wing Syriza Party claimed that the center-right government was unable to constrain the aggressive policing methods.
“Society can no longer tolerate this climate of fear created by extreme police brutality which, for trivial reasons, has threatened the life of an underage 16-year-old child,” said Christos Spirtzis, the party spokesman for public order.
Annual protests mark fatal police shooting
In 2008, police shot the 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens, triggering the most brutal riots in decades.
Annual protests mark the fatal shooting, often leading to violent clashes between protesters and riot police.
los/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)