In Greece's second-largest city, violent protests have been made over the police shooting of a Romany teenager after he was accused of filling his vehicle at a fuel station and driving off without paying.
The 16-year-old boy was being treated at a hospital in Thessaloniki where he was in critical condition. The officer who allegedly shot him in the head was arrested and suspended from duty, police said.
On Monday night, about 1,500 people took part in a protest organized by leftist and anarchist groups in central Thessaloniki. Some smashed shops and threw molotov cocktails at police, who responded with teargas and stun grenades. There were no injuries or arrests reported during the march.
Before the protest, about a hundred Romany men set up barricades blocking a main road outside the hospital where the boy was being treated and setting fire to bins. The police had earlier used stun grenades and teargas to disperse protesters throwing bottles at them outside the hospital.
Several hundred people took part in a peaceful protest march in central Athens over the shooting and a past incident in which a Romany man was shot during a police chase. The demonstrators in Greece's capital had a banner reading: They shot them because they were Roma. Members of the Romany community in Greece and human rights activists accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against Roma. Several Romany men have been fatally shot or injured in recent years during confrontations with police while trying to escape arrest for breaches of the law.
The boy was not named but was identified by relatives as a member of the Romany minority.
The 34-year-old officer arrested on suspicion of shooting the teenager was suspended and an internal investigation was under way, police said.
The incident occurred early on Monday outside of Thessaloniki. A police motorcycle patrol officer chased a boy after authorities had been alerted by a fuel station employee over an unpaid bill of €20 17. The arrested officer was due to appear before a public prosecutor on Tuesday to face charges of attempted manslaughter.
The shooting took place on the eve of annual protests in Greek cities to mark the fatal police shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in 2008 in Athens. His death triggered extensive riots that lasted for several weeks. The anniversary protests held since the shooting have often resulted in violent clashes between protesters and riot police.
The value of a person's life can never be measured by money, according to Giannis Oikonomou, a government spokeswoman. The officer, who was a passenger on one of the pursuing motorcycles, fired two shots to try to stop the suspect from ramming the bike. The driver of the pickup truck had repeatedly made dangerous manoeuvres before the shots were fired, a statement said.
Another Romany youth was killed in a police pursuit in 2021 near the port of Piraeus.
A spokesman for Greece's main opposition, the leftwing Syriza party, accused the centre-right government of failing to keep excessive policing methods in check.
Christos Spirtzis, a party spokesperson for public order, said society can no longer tolerate the climate of fear created by extreme police brutality, which, for trivial reasons, has threatened the life of an underage 16 year-old child.
Protests were planned for Athens and Thessaloniki on Monday in light of the shooting.