FILE - People blocking a main road set fire to rubbish bins outside the Ippokrateio General Hospital, in Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki, on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Dimitris Tosidis)
THESSALONIKI – Violent demonstrations erupted in Greece’s second-largest city after a police officer shot in the head and seriously wounded a 16-year-old Roma boy who drove away from a gasoline station after filling his tank and not paying.
He was not identified, nor was the 32-year-old police officer, a member of a special motorcycle DIAS team, who was charged with attempted murder and will face a magistrate said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency ANA-MPA.
The boy was was being treated in critical condition at a Thessaloniki hospital but the shooting led to some 1500 people in a march organized by left-wing and anarchist groups which saw window shops smashed in the city.
They threw Molotov Cocktails at riot police who fired back tear gas and stun grenades and all-out battles broke out in the streets a day before the 14th anniversary in Athens of the shooting death of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a special police officer, a date which has seen protests too.
Before the Thessaloniki protest, some 100 angry Roma men set up barricades, blocking a main road outside the hospital where the boy was being treated, and set fire to trash cans. Police had used stun grenades and tear gas earlier to disperse protesters throwing bottles at them outside the hospital.
There was also peaceful demonstration in Athens over the teen’s shooting as well as a past incident in which a Roma man also was shot during a police chase which fueled fury at the time.
The demonstrators in Greece’s capital had a banner reading, “They shot them because they were Roma.” Brief clashes broke out with police after the protest ended as tension simmered.
Members of the Roma community in Greece and human rights activists frequently accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against them and several Roma men were killed or injured in recent years during confrontations with police while allegedly seeking to evade arrest.
The incident occurred outside Thessaloniki before dawn on Dec. and saw the motorcycle police chase the teen’s pickup truck after a gas station worker said the youth drove off without paying a 20-euro ($21) bill.
Police said the officer fired two shots to try and stop the suspect from ramming the pursuing motorcycle on which the office was a passenger, similar to the previous shooting of a Roman man in a separate incident earlier in the year.
A statement said the driver of the pickup truck had “repeatedly made dangerous maneuvers” and drove through red lights before the shots were fired, adding that the vehicle subsequently crashed.
New Democracy government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou, questioned about the incident, said in response 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 accused the center-right government of failing to keep excessive policing methods in check and acting brutally at times.
“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.
“They shot them because they were Roma,” displayed a banner held by demonstrators in Athens, the community frequently complaining about discrimination and being targeted by police.
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, noted EuroNews.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)
LONDON - Greek National Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and UK Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, signed a Joint Vision Statement on a British Royal Navy 'Diamond D34' cruiser, at the naval base of Portsmouth on Tuesday.
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