About 1,500 people take part in protest march in Thessaloniki with teenager in critical condition

Fires burning on road outside hospital in ThessalonikiFires burning on road outside hospital in Thessaloniki on Monday. Photograph: Dimitris Tosidis/AP

Violent protests have broken out in Greece’s second-largest city over the police shooting of a Romany teenager after he allegedly filled his vehicle at a fuel station and drove off without paying.

The 16-year-old boy was being treated at a Thessaloniki hospital where he was in critical condition. The officer who allegedly shot him in the head was arrested and suspended from duty, police in the northern city said.

About 1,500 people took part in a protest march organised by leftwing and anarchist groups in central Thessaloniki on Monday night. Some smashed shops and threw molotov cocktails at police, who responded with teargas and stun grenades. The march ended without any arrests or injuries reported.

Before that protest, about a hundred Romany men set up barricades blocking a main road outside the hospital where the boy was being treated and set fire to bins. Police had used stun grenades and teargas earlier 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 as well as over 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 frequently accuse Greek authorities of discriminating against Roma. Several Romany 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.

The boy was not named but was identified by relatives as being a member of the Romany minority.

Police said the 34-year-old officer arrested on suspicion of shooting the teenager was suspended and an internal investigation was under way.

The incident occurred outside Thessaloniki early on Monday. Officers from a police motorcycle patrol chased the boy, who was driving a pickup truck, 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 occurred on the eve of annual protests in Greek cities to mark the fatal police shooting in 2008 of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens, whose death triggered extensive riots that lasted for several weeks. Anniversary protests held since the shooting have often led to violent clashes between protesters and riot police.

Asked to comment on the shooting, Giannis Oikonomou, a government spokesperson, said: “The value of a human life can never be measured by any amount of money.”

Police said 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. A statement said the driver of the pickup truck had “repeatedly made dangerous manoeuvres” before the shots were fired, adding that the vehicle subsequently crashed.

Another Romany youth was killed in 2021 near the port of Piraeus, also in a police pursuit.

A spokesperson for Greece’s main opposition, the leftwing 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 spokesperson for public order.

Protests in light of the shooting were planned in Athens and Thessaloniki later on Monday.