Violent protests erupted in northern Greece on Monday after police shot and injured a Roma teenager during a chase.
The 16-year-old boy, who is being treated in a hospital in Thessaloniki, was reportedly shot in the head by an officer. The officer has been arrested and suspended from duty, according to police in Greece’s second-largest city.
Police chased the teenager after he allegedly refueled his vehicle at a petrol station and left without paying a €20 bill.
The incident happened outside Thessaloniki before dawn on Monday. Officers from a motorcycle patrol chased the teenager’s van after receiving reports from a gas station employee.
A police statement said the driver of the truck had “repeatedly made dangerous maneuvers” and was “trying to crash into police motorcycles” before the chase was over.
But the teenager’s family lawyer for the boy described it as a ‘cold-blooded attack’ and said ‘there is no justification for such action by the police’.
About 1,500 people took part in the demonstration organized by leftist and anarchist groups in the center of Thessaloniki. Some destroyed shops and threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
Around 100 Roma men had erected barricades ahead of the protest, blocking the main road outside the hospital where the boy was being treated and setting rubbish bins on fire.
Police had used stun grenades and tear gas earlier to disperse protesters. Six people were arrested at the end of the march.
Several hundred people also took part in a peaceful protest march in central Athens, the Greek capital, against the shooting of the teenager, as well as a past incident in which a Roma man was also shot dead during a a police chase.
“They shot them because they were Roma,” read a banner held by protesters in Athens.
A spokesman for Greece’s main opposition Syriza party accused the centre-right government of failing to control excessive policing.
“Society can no longer tolerate this climate of fear created by extreme police brutality which, for trivial reasons, threatened the life of a 16-year-old minor,” said Christos Spirtzis, party spokesman for the ‘public order.
The arrested officer was due to appear before a public prosecutor on Tuesday for attempted manslaughter.
Members of the Roma community in Greece and human rights activists frequently accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against Roma.
Several Roma men have been shot or injured in recent years in clashes with police as they allegedly seek to evade arrest for breaking the law.
Seven Greek police officers are currently on trial for the murder and attempted murder of the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old Roma in Perama last year.
“The value of a human life can never be measured by any amount of money,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou told reporters.