[Marxism] Greece, in Anti-Fascist Crackdown, Investigates Police

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Sep 25 08:17:09 MDT 2013

NY Times September 24, 2013
Greece, in Anti-Fascist Crackdown, Investigates Police

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 
economic crisis.

“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 
people hospitalized.

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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