ATHENS – Hoping to galvanize public opinion, some 1,000 supporters of the far-right ultra-extremist Golden Dawn party protested outside the Parliament on Nov. 30 over the continued detention of its leader and five other of its 18 Members of Parliament.
Nikos Michaloliakos and his hierarchy were arrested on charges of running a criminal gang in the wake of the murder of a 34-year-old hip-hop artist, Pavlos Fyssas on Sept. 18 that led to mass demonstrations against the party.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras vowed to break up Golden Dawn but the government has backed off somewhat on trying to end its state funding although insisting it’s building a case.
Golden Dawn has been accused of being anti-Semitic and behind assaults on immigrants and other targets on its list of enemies, which include gays, capitalists and people it believes blaspheme God and Greek Orthodoxy.
Several Golden Dawn lawmakers spoke to the enthusiastic but smaller-than-expected crowd, some of whom carried torches. The crowd chanted slogans in favor of Michaloliakos and against Samaras.
Clad in black clothes, carrying torches and Greek flags, the ultra-right party’s supporters shouted slogans such as “hands off Golden Dawn, don’t jail nationalists” to the sound of Greek folk and marching songs.
Two smaller, rival gatherings of leftist activists in Athens, meanwhile, dispersed peacefully. Police had mobilized to prevent the leftists and the Golden Dawn backers from clashing.
Golden Dawn rose from obscurity and 0.29 percent of the vote in 2009 to 6.97 percent in the June 12 elections to enter Parliament and had nearly doubled that backing until the killing of Fyssas saw its popularity fall.
Two of its members, guards for a neighborhood office, were shot dead Nov. 1. A new terrorist group claimed responsibility and said it was revenge for the Fyssas killing, raising fears of clashes between the country’s polarized right and left factions.
Anti-fascists had hoped to block the Golden Dawn rally but were prevented by police from getting close to them.