Greek security forces flooded central Athens as protesters took to the streets to commemorate the shooting death of a teenager by police, hours after violence erupted following an incident similar in the north of the country.
More than 4,000 law enforcement personnel, backed by heavily armed riot police, were dispatched to the city center on Tuesday amid fears of further clashes as a Roma boy, shot in the head by an officer, fought for his life. “Stop these murderous policies”, chanted the demonstrators.
The victim, identified as Kostas Frangoulis, 16, a member of the Roma community in Thessaloniki, was seriously injured while being chased by a mechanized police division after he allegedly failed to pay a €20 fuel bill in A gas station.
The incident came on the eve of the anniversary of the death of Alexis Grigoropoulos – a teenager killed in 2008 by an officer in Athens’ Exarchia district – and has once again shed light on the tactics of a police often criticized for their brutality. and brutality. The controversial circumstances of Grigoropoulos’ death sparked the worst riots in decades across the country.
In a statement, the main left-wing opposition party Syriza said: “History is repeating itself not as a farce but as a tragedy due to police immunity and blatant arbitrariness.”
Earlier on Tuesday, hundreds of Roma gathered outside a court complex in Greece’s second-largest city as a 34-year-old officer, who admitted firing his service pistol during the chase, appeared before a prosecutor for attempted manslaughter with possible intent.
A police statement said that prior to the shooting, the youth attempted to “ram police motorcycles” and “repeatedly performed dangerous maneuvers”.
In Athens and Thessaloniki, furious protesters took to the streets on Monday night with banners saying the teenager had been deliberately targeted by police because he was from a discriminated minority.
Echoing the unrest following the Grigoropoulos shooting, violence erupted as left-wing and anarchist groups expressed their anger, smashing store windows and throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at police, who retaliated with tear gas and stun grenades.
In recent years, a number of Roma men have been shot or injured in similar police chases. “It was a deadly attack on a member of a discriminated minority,” Yiannis Baroutsas, a young student, said as he marched through the capital with protesters on Tuesday. “The police have a culture of brutality in this country. They use guns against the Roma and sound grenades against us.
Graffiti painted on public buildings across Athens after Monday’s incident proclaimed: “It wasn’t the gas, it wasn’t the money, the cops shot because he was Roma.”
The government of centre-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has taken what has been described as a draconian law and order approach, with refugees in particular particularly affected by harsh policies.
The Greek leader, who hopes to be re-elected next year, came under heavy criticism on Tuesday for opting to announce a €600 bonus for police and coastguards on the same day Frangoulis was shot dead. “Many of us see it as proof that this government condones police tactics,” Baroutsas said, prompting nods from fellow march participants. “Couldn’t he have announced the bonus another day?”
A lawyer representing the Frangoulis family described the teenager’s life as “hanging by a thread”, as furor over the incident ran high among Greece’s Roma population.
“We don’t want Kostas to become another Alexis,” said lawyer Theofilos Alexopoulos. “We want him to succeed and be the cause that will allow us to put all Roma issues back on the table.”