Violent protests in Greece after police shoot teenager in head

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Flaming rubbish bins outside the Ippokrateio General Hospital, in Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki, on Monday, Dec 5, 2022.
Flaming rubbish bins outside the Ippokrateio General Hospital, in Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki, on Monday, Dec 5, 2022.   -   Copyright  Dimitris Tosidis/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

Violent protests erupted in northern Greece on Monday after police shot and injured a Roma teenager in a chase. 

The 16-year-old boy, who is being treated at a hospital in Thessaloniki, was allegedly shot by one officer in the head. The officer has been arrested and suspended from duty, according to police in Greece's second-largest city. 

Police pursued the teenager after he allegedly filled his vehicle at a petrol station and drove off without paying a bill of €20. 

The incident occurred outside Thessaloniki before dawn Monday. Officers from a motorcycle patrol chased the teenager's pickup truck after receiving reports from a petrol station employee.

A police statement said the driver of the truck had “repeatedly made dangerous maneuvres” and "was trying to ram police motorbikes" before the chase ended.

But the teenager's family lawyer for the boy has described it as a "cold-blooded attack" and says "nothing justifies such action by police officers."

Around 1,500 took part in the protest organised by left-wing and anarchist groups in central Thessaloniki. Some smashed shops and threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.

About a hundred Roma men had set up barricades before that protest, blocking the main road outside the hospital where the boy was being treated, and setting fire to rubbish bins.

Police had used stun grenades and tear gas earlier to disperse protesters. Six people were detained at the end of the march.

Several hundred people also took part in a peaceful protest march in central Athens, the Greek capital, over the teenager's shooting, as well as a past incident in which a Roma man also was shot during a police chase. 

"They shot them because they were Roma," displayed a banner held by demonstrators in Athens. 

A spokesman for Greece's main opposition left-wing Syriza party accused the centre-right government of failing to keep excessive policing methods in check.

"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.

The arrested officer was due to appear before a public prosecutor Tuesday on charges of attempted manslaughter.

Members of the Roma community in Greece and human rights activists frequently accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against Romani individuals.

Several Roma men have been fatally shot or injured in recent years during confrontations with police while allegedly seeking to evade arrest for breaches of the law.

Seven Greek police officers are currently on trial for murder and attempted murder of the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old Roma man in Perama last year.

"The value of a human life can never be measured by any amount of money," government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou told reporters.