By Georges Mehrabian
ATHENS, Greece — Close to 20,000 people gathered here Sept. 18 to protest the killing of Pavlos Fyssas in the early morning hours that day. Fyssas, a 34-year-old anti-fascist hip-hop singer and metal worker, was allegedly stabbed to death by a member of Golden Dawn, an ultrarightist party, after he and his friends were chased by a gang of about 20 of the party’s thugs. Golden Dawn has 18 representatives in parliament.
Eyewitness accounts in the press say that during the attack nearby police disregarded requests by individuals to intervene and ignored a crowd of some 40 Golden Dawn supporters on the street. By the time one policewoman finally did respond Fyssas had been stabbed. Thousands streamed to the area in the working-class neighborhood of Keratsini where Fyssas was killed.
They planned to march to the local police station and then to Golden Dawn’s local office, but were met by tear gas and charging riot police en route to the station. Other protests took place in cities across the country. “I feel horror and revulsion at what happened to Fyssas,” said Martha Pissanou, a 25-year-old lab technician who lives a few blocks away and attended the protest with her father, a factory worker. “I am here because we have to show that we do not support the actions of these fascist thugs. Golden Dawn is growing in this area, which is a working-class area and is poor and has been hit hard by the crisis. The group now have three offices around here and recruit young people on the basis of hatredand nationalism. But, you have to talk to these youth and explain to them that this is a big trap.” Golden Dawn has been organizing weekly food distribution to “poor Greeks” and has been subsidizing goons from demoralized, lumpen elements. Giorgos Roupakias, who was arrested for the murder, was one such element on their payroll.
“Golden Dawn thugs in uniform have been organizing weekly marches through the neighborhood. You hear the sound of their boots on weekend mornings. We need mass mobilizations to isolate them,” continued Pissanou. “Violence by Golden Dawn is nothing new,” said Moisis Litsis, a former journalist and striker at Eleftehrotypia newspaper. He was at the protest with his wife and son. “They used to focus attacks on immigrant workers, Pakistanis and others. Many Greeks would feel sympathy for the victims but did not feel directly threatened. During the last week Golden Dawn members have been involved in beating up eight members of the Communist Youth of Greece (KNE) in nearby Perama.” “Golden Dawn has been very active in this area and in nearby Perama, which is a shipyard zone,” Giorgos Pissanos, a 19-year-old student at the Athens Polytechnic University, told the Militant. “The group has used threats and violence against immigrant shipyard workers to force them to work for less and operates in collusion with the bosses in the area. The Communist Youth organization it targeted is closely linked to the PAME union federation, which organizes many of the shipyards. Let’s not forget that Pavlos and his father are both metal workers and members of the metal workers union in Perama. I see Golden Dawn’s attack as also an attack on the union movement.”
As the riot police attacked the protesters, many became trapped within smaller streets, where residents opened up their homes to provide shelter. On Sept. 19 another demonstration of thousands took place near the area where Fyssas was killed. Under increasing pressure, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in a televised address that day said the government was “determined not to allow the descendants of the Nazis to poison our social life, to commit crimes, to terrorize and to undermine the foundations of the country that gave birth to democracy.” Suddenly, for the first time in years, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias moved towards the prosecution of 32 cases of violent attacks by Golden Dawn members or supporters that had been inactive for months and years. Shipyard workers protested Sept. 21in Piraeus.