Greece: How Neo-Nazi gangs are targeting squats
On the night of September 17 2013, the Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas (Killah P) and his friends sat in the local coffee shop Korali, in Keratsini, to the south of Athens. There was a football match on the TV. The place was packed. Soon a verbal dispute between local two members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and Fyssas’ friends started. Just one hour later Fyssas will be murdered outside of the Korali, stabbed in the heart by a member of local Golden Dawn branch: Giorgos Roupakias.
The murder of Fyssas was at the time largely condemned by all political parties represented in the parliament, including Golden Dawn. In first hours after the event a Golden Dawn spokesperson, Ilias Kasidiaris stated that the party had no connection to the incident.
During this time, many left political parties started to use Fyssas’ murder and his antifascist activities in order to politicize him. Fyssas’ family responded angrily claiming he did not belong to any political faction. His father in a television interview clearly stated: “My child did not belong anywhere, they have wrongly politicized him and exploit him. From the first day we have stated this: my child did not belong anywhere.”
The right-wing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who displayed in his speeches aggressive anti-immigrant rhetoric, called for a reaction. He stated on the national TV that he will stop “the descendants of the Nazis from poisoning our social life, to act criminally, to terrorize and to undermine the foundations of the country which gave birth to democracy”.
A huge criminal investigation followed the Fyssas’ murder and all the prominent members of the Golden Dawn were arrested including its leader Nikos Michaloliakos.
Trial against Golden Dawn
On April 20 2015, the trial against Golden Dawn started in the three-member Athens Criminal Appeal Court and the women’s wing of Korydallos prisons. The 69 lawmakers, members and supporters of the party were accused of membership and direction of a criminal organization among others.
The trial is ongoing until today and after almost four years over 300 hearings took place. The verdict will be most probably known by the end of this year. In the meantime all the arrested members of Golden Dawn were released from the prison after 18 months and are free awaiting the trial, among them also Fyssas’ murderer Roupakias, who until today stays under house arrest.
The trial against Golden Dawn is the first and most important trial against a Nazi political party since the Nuremberg trials. The Golden Dawn trial centres on four major cases: the murder of Pavlos Fyssas; the attack on the members of the Communist Party-aligned trade union Pame (September 12 2013); the attack on Egyptian fishermen (June 12 2012) and membership of a criminal organization.
Among other charges the local prosecutors investigated separate attacks against social centers and anarchist squats particularly two: an attack on anarchist center Antipnoia on June 30 2008 and attack on social center Synergeio on June 10 2013.
In the case of the attack on anarchist center Antipnoia two Golden Dawn members were arrested after the knife attack and back in 2014 both found guilty for attempted manslaughter and illegal possession of weapons.
“Ten men with black helmets entered the space where Spanish class took place. They screamed: ‘You have greetings from Golden Dawn, pussies. We will fuck you!’” one of the witnesses testified during the trial. The court gave a penalty of more then 10 years in prison for each of the Golden Dawn members. Apart from that both of the Goldendawners are among the 69 members who are facing a trial for membership in criminal organization.
In case of attack on social center Synergeio, the trial is still continuing. The case was especially interesting since among the neo-Nazi gang that attacked and smashed locally well-known leftist space, was spotted a MP from Golden Dawn; Nikos Michos.
Formation of new far-right urban groups and attacks on squats
Since the trial started almost four years ago the members of Golden Dawn distanced themselves from using the party’s identity (including name and symbols). Nevertheless the street attacks against immigrants, social centers, squats and autonomous spaces did not stop.
New urban neo-Nazi groups emerged during this time through effective mobilization on social media. The name ‘Golden Dawn’ was not used anymore, but the later investigations proved some of them had a direct connection with the party in past or continue to have it in the present times.
Three of the attacks, which led to later arrests, were particularly significant:
- In the early morning of August 24 2016 the refugee squat Notara in Athens was attacked with arson.
The Notara was one of the first refugee squats, occupied in 2015. The building at the time hosted 130 refugees and suffered visible damage especially on the first floor of the squat. The residents of Notara had to trash a lot of clothes, mattresses, toys, books etc but nobody was injured during the attack. The response of solidarity groups was huge and Notara recovered only in few days.
The group called ‘Radical Autonomous Fighters of National Socialism’claimed the responsibility for the attack in 15-minutes-long video. The video with Islamophobic anti-migrant rhetoric also involved the arson attack on Notara.
- During the nationalist rally over the Macedonia naming dispute on January 21 2018 in Thessaloniki a group of far-right protesters attacked with arson one of the oldest squats in Greece: Libertatia.
Reportedly, among the group of men in black that attacked the squat were football hooligans and members of a local fascist group from Oraiokastro, Nationalist Youth of Thessaloniki and Combat 18 Hellas. The long-established squat Libertatia was burned down and did not recover until now.
- Just one month after the squat in Thessaloniki was burned down, another attack happened: on February 25 the social center Favela, located in port city of Piraeus South of Athens was vandalized by group of local neo-Nazis. Five people were injured during the attack.
Favela was not a squat, but rather a social center where people from different left backgrounds hang out. It was important place since it was established in a poor area, with high unemployment and strong support for Nazis. As such it enjoyed support from different anarchist groups especially since it was attacked or vandalized from outside three times in last two years. A huge mobilization of movements was called hours after the attack and the response was enormous from groups from different part of Athens.
Arrests follow the attacks on squats
Last January, the anti-terrorist unit of the Greek police arrested four people, members of neo-fascist groups Appela (among them were also members of Golden Dawn). They were accused on organizing and vandalizing the social center Favela in August 2017.
Just two months later a much bigger and notable police operation was conducted: 11 members of neo-Nazi groups Combat 18 Hellas (named after the British neo-Nazi organization formed in the 1990s) were arrested. The members of the group (reportedly operating from 2010 onwards) took responsibility for over 15 attacks on anarchist squats and centers in the last years. They also targeted Jewish memorials and a monument to Pavlos Fyssas, which they disfigured with swastikas.
The police found and later published the appalling possessions of arrested neo-Nazis: fifty pounds of ammonia nitrate, Molotov cocktails, Nazi literature and symbols, knives, a sword and brass knuckles, bats, butane and small amounts of narcotic drugs.
Apart from the attacks the group terrorized its opponents with videos, in which they together with Nazi symbols often use also weapons.
The arrests of members of Combat 18 Hellas was the biggest police intervention since the members of Golden Dawn were arrested. Police reports later revealed some members kept close links with some of the Goldendawners, even if the neo-Nazi party was not involved in the persecution.
Today most of the Combat 18 Hellas members are released and are awaiting trial.