Teen shot dead by police in Athens; protests ensue

Thessaloniki, Greece –

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and the capital Athens on Tuesday night after a leader of the Roma community died last week after being shot in the head while police were chasing an allegedly unpaid gas station bill After calling for calm.

The Dec. 5 shooting of a 16-year-old Roma youth in Thessaloniki sparked days of violent protests in the two cities and elsewhere in Greece, despite repeated calls from his relatives and community leaders to keep the protests peaceful .

“I appeal to all, to all Greeks, to all Roma,” Panagiotis Sambanis, president of the Roma community in central and eastern Macedonia, said shortly after hospital authorities announced the teenager’s death on Tuesday. People, stay calm about this incident.” .

Some 2,500 people marched in Thessaloniki, where the teenager lived and died, and a similar protest was held in Athens after student and anarchist groups called for protests following his death. Greek media reported that protesters set fire to tires and blocked roads during rallies in several parts of the country.

Clashes erupted at the end of the march in Thessaloniki when a group of dozens of protesters interrupted the demonstration by setting trash cans on fire and throwing Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas. There was a more limited scuffle in Athens, where the protests were largely peaceful.

Authorities have not released the teenager’s name, but relatives identified him as Kostas Frangoulis, who is married with a young child.

“Everyone here is crying. It’s not fair for the child to leave like this,” said Antonis Tasios, secretary of the Roma community where the teenager lives. “We (felt) very distressed.”

Frangulis underwent emergency surgery following the shooting and remains in intensive care. Despite the efforts of medical teams, he succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday morning, the hospital said. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday.

Thessaloniki police said about 50 people emerged from a university campus on Tuesday afternoon and threw several petrol bombs at riot police units stationed nearby. No injuries were reported.

A policeman on a motorbike shot the teen in pursuit after he filled up his pickup truck at a gas station and allegedly failed to pay the 20 euro ($21) bill drove away.

Police said the teen tried to crash into a police motorcycle involved in the pursuit. The accused 34-year-old officer said in his first court appearance last week that he opened fire to stop the pickup truck because he feared for the lives of colleagues, but that he targeted the tires, not the driver.

The Roma community has condemned the shooting as racistly motivated. In recent years, several Roma men have been injured or shot dead in confrontations with police, while allegedly trying to avoid arrest for violating the law.

“It wasn’t gas, it wasn’t money, the police shot him because he was Roma,” protesters in Thessaloniki chanted.

Members of Greece’s Roma community have long faced discrimination, with many often living on the margins of society.

The officer charged with the fatal shooting has been suspended and has been under house arrest since Friday on misdemeanor charges of attempted homicide with possible intent and unlawful shooting.

As a result of the teen’s death, the felony charge will likely be revised to manslaughter. The court is expected to make a decision in the next few days on whether to jail the officer or release him on bail pending trial.

Sambanis, a Roma community leader, said Frangoulis’ family was expecting the officer to be remanded in pretrial detention.

“These times we’re going through are difficult times for the family, the father, the mother and his wife. His wife is in a very bad situation,” Sambanis said.

Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos, who has jurisdiction over the Greek police, tweeted that he was “deeply saddened by the death of the 16-year-old boy” and sent his condolences to the boy. The teenager’s family expressed their condolences.

“I reiterate that this case is being investigated by the judiciary, the only body empowered to assess the facts and the responsibility of judges,” the minister wrote. “Let’s all respect that.”

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