Violent clashes erupted between members of the Roma community and riot police in Greece’s second largest city on Monday after a 16-year-old was shot dead during a police chase.
Around 1,500 demonstrators took to the streets of Thessaloniki, smashing shop windows and throwing Molotov cocktails at police, who used tear gas and stun grenades in retaliation.
The Roma teenager is currently in critical condition, authorities said, after he was shot in the head by a police officer in the early hours of Monday morning.
According to state broadcaster ERT, the boy filled up his vehicle at a gas station near the port city of Thessaloniki and drove away without paying. A gas station employee reported that the unpaid bill was €20 ($21).
The officer who allegedly pulled the trigger was arrested and suspended from the force, Thessaloniki authorities said. He is due to be brought before the public prosecutor’s office on Tuesday for attempted manslaughter.
Authorities said the teenager tried to ram police officers who were chasing him on motorcycles to avoid arrest.
The officer in question then fired two shots to stop the attack on the motorcycle he was a passenger on.
Roma denounce discrimination
Although the victim’s name was not released publicly, relatives identified him as 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 join human rights activists in accusing the Greek authorities of discriminating against the minority.
The number of Roma men who have been fatally shot or injured in clashes with the police in recent years has been high. Authorities argue that in most cases the men allegedly tried to evade arrest after breaking the law.
Politicians criticize police brutality
Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said of the shooting that “the value of a human life can never be measured in money”.
A spokesman for Greece’s main left-wing opposition party, Syriza, claimed that the centre-right government was unable to contain aggressive police 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, spokesman for the public order party.
Annual protests mark fatal police shootings
In 2008, police shot and killed 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens, sparking the most brutal riots in decades.
Annual protests mark the deadly gunshots that often result in violent clashes between protesters and riot police.
los/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)