[Marxism] Greece, in Anti-Fascist Crackdown, Investigates Police
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Sep 25 08:17:09 MDT 2013
NY Times September 24, 2013
Greece, in Anti-Fascist Crackdown, Investigates Police
By LIZ ALDERMAN
ATHENS — The photo splashed on the cover of a Greek newspaper this
weekend shocked a nation: Pavlos Fyssas, a Greek rapper whose music
inveighed against far-right groups, lay dying in a pool of his own blood
as his girlfriend cradled him in her arms, moments after he was stabbed
in the heart.
The suspect has been linked to Greece’s neo-fascist Golden Dawn party.
Almost as chilling are accusations by some witnesses that a squad of
police officers stood by as a group of burly, black-clad party members
chased Mr. Fyssas down. A police spokesman denied that account, saying
officers arrived right after the stabbing, in a gritty Athens suburb
last Wednesday, and promptly arrested the suspect.
The killing of Mr. Fyssas has spurred the government to begin a risky
crackdown on Golden Dawn, opening its first investigation into whether
the police forces are infiltrated by sympathizers or members of the
group, one of the most violent rightist organizations in Europe.
On Tuesday, officers raided three police stations on the outskirts of
Athens. The sweep came a day after the government replaced seven senior
police officials — including the chiefs of special forces, internal
security, organized crime and the explosives unit — to ensure the
investigation would take place with “absolute objectivity.” In addition,
two top members of the Greek police force resigned abruptly Monday,
citing “personal reasons.”
Such steps have the potential for volatile repercussions in a country
where the security forces have had links to far-right organizations at
various points since the end of World War II. They are likely to test
the determination of the government and the public to turn back the
influence of Golden Dawn, which has climbed steadily in opinion polls in
the past year and has 18 of its members in Parliament.
“This is a pivotal moment,” said Harry Papasotiriou, the director of the
Institute of International Relations at Panteion University in Athens.
“It is not clear whether Greece will become more or less stable as a
result of any crackdown. There is always the risk that there is a more
violent response, but this needs to be done.”
Until now, the government and most of the Greek public have stood by in
a kind of outraged tolerance as Golden Dawn intensified a campaign of
intimidation against immigrants, whom the group blames for a rising tide
of crime and accuses of taking jobs away from Greeks amid a grinding
“But now they have killed a Greek, and they have crossed a red line,”
Mr. Papasotiriou said. “That has triggered a new movement against them.”
The public outcry after the killing of Mr. Fyssas, who used the stage
name Killah P, placed greater pressure on Prime Minister Antonis
Samaras, a member of the right-leaning New Democracy party, to
investigate a police force he has repeatedly defended, despite a cascade
of reports drawing links between the police and Golden Dawn.
Human rights groups say the police have for the most part looked the
other way as Golden Dawn has systematically terrorized immigrants. These
aggressive acts, sometimes captured on video by Golden Dawn members and
posted on the Internet, involve roving groups crushing market stands run
by immigrants, riding in gangs on motorbikes armed with clubs and
shields bearing swastika-like symbols and beating immigrants with wooden
poles draped in the Greek flag.
Nikos Demertzis, a professor of political sociology at the University of
Athens, said allegations of police collusion with the far right were not
surprising. “Generally there is a tradition in Greece that the far-right
organizations have certain links with the police — this is a historic,
recurring theme,” Mr. Demertzis said.
Armed with promises to restore jobs and order, members of Golden Dawn
hew to nationalistic and xenophobic slogans, appealing to marginalized
Greeks in rough areas populated by a rising tide of unemployed
immigrants, mostly from Pakistan and North Africa.
But Golden Dawn has also increasingly clashed with leftist groups. This
month, thousands of Greeks protested in Athens after about 50 Golden
Dawn members, wielding bats and crowbars, attacked members of the
Communist Party as they hung posters for a youth festival, leaving nine
Mr. Fyssas appears to have been another symbolic target. The lyrics of
his rap songs often criticized what he saw as a rising tide of fascism
in Greece perpetrated by Golden Dawn.
There are conflicting reports about what happened in the moments before
his death. The police are investigating witnesses’ accounts that Mr.
Fyssas was watching a soccer game in a cafe when one of his friends made
a disparaging remark about Golden Dawn that was overheard by another patron.
Not long afterward, according to some accounts by witnesses, about 30
Golden Dawn members, including the suspect in the killing, Giorgos
Roupakias, 45, converged on the cafe. Mr. Fyssas’ mother, who was not
present at the scene of the killing, has asserted that about 12 police
officers were present when the stabbing took place.
“Golden Dawn is more violent than far-right groups in other countries,”
Mr. Papasotiriou of Panteion University said. “They have morphed into an
organization that is much nastier and violent and criminal than typical
far right elsewhere. Whereas one might disagree with Marine Le Pen,” he
said, referring to the leader of the far-right party in France, “these
guys here emulate the Nazi model and resort a lot to violence.”
Mr. Demertzis of the University of Athens said Golden Dawn was suspected
of being organized like a paramilitary organization, headed by a leader
who is surrounded by 10 to 20 people close to him. Cells of 30 to 50
people in different areas of the country are organized “in full
obedience as soldiers,” Mr. Demertzis said, adding that they take an
oath of loyalty to the leader and the organization. “They operate like
commandos, or special forces in the sense that they are supposed to
leave no traces behind.”
Investigators are also looking into reports in the Greek news media that
special forces officers in the military have secretly trained with
Golden Dawn members.
The police strongly deny any ties between their ranks and Golden Dawn.
“The aim of the Greek police is for there to be no shadow over the
force,” a police spokesman, Christos Parthenis, said Tuesday. “The
stance of the Greek police opposite every incident of violence or
lawlessness is nonnegotiable: full investigation, zero tolerance and
unwavering enforcement of the law.”
The leader of a police union admitted to some troubles within the force,
but blamed government officials for a failure to address the problems.
“During the last three years, there were many cases during which our
colleagues displayed tolerance toward outbreaks of violence by members
of Golden Dawn,” said Christos Fotopoulos, head of the Federation of
Greek Police Officers, during an interview on Greek television. He said
that the federation had flagged the episodes to alert police chiefs and
the Public Order Ministry, but that there was little reaction from either.
Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Athens.
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