Neo-Nazi Murder Greeks Protest Rise of the Far-Right

The alleged murder of a leftist rapper by a neo-Nazi has shocked Greece, where thousands have taken to the streets to protest the rise of the far-right Golden Dawn party. Athens says it is determined to take action.
Greek protesters clash with police in Athens on Wednesday.

Greek protesters clash with police in Athens on Wednesday.

Foto: Milos Bicanski/ Getty Images

As Pavlos Fyssas was laid to rest in Athens on Thursday morning, thousands of Greeks took to the streets to pay their respects to the anti-fascist rapper and demonstrate against the escalating violence engulfing the country.

When he was stabbed to death early on Wednesday, the 34-year-old became the most prominent victim of a wave of right-wing extremism  that, if left unchecked, some fear may degenerate into generalized instability as social tensions rise on the back of the country's economic crisis .

A 45-year-old man, Giorgos Roupakias, has been arrested for the crime and, according to police, has confessed to both the murder and his ties to the far-right Golden Dawn, which has seen a meteoric rise  in popularity and is now Greece's third most popular political party.

Buoyed by record unemployment, poverty and increasing crime in urban centers, Golden Dawn's anti-establishment rhetoric has attracted Greeks who blame the political status quo for the crisis. The once marginal neo-Nazi party gained parliamentary representation in the June 2012 elections for the first time.

Some observers say that the political success and parliamentary representation of the party has emboldened grassroots members, who feel increasingly invincible. The murder of Fyssas took place only a few days after an attack by Golden Dawn sympathizers against members of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) in Perama, which left eight people wounded. According to the online edition of weekly newspaper To Vima, there have been at least 300 cases of right-wing violence in Greece  during the last three years.

Public Outrage

The victim, also known as Killah P ("Killer of the Past"), was a rapper with well-known anti-fascist beliefs. According to police, he was watching a Champions League football game with friends and his partner in a cafeteria in the working-class area of Keratsini, Athens on the night of his murder.

A fight broke out with two or three other customers, presumably also Golden Dawn sympathizers, who used text messages and calls to ask for reinforcements, who included the alleged perpetrator. Out on the street shortly thereafter, the alleged perpetrator stabbed the victim to death. Daily Elefheros Typos reported on Thursday that, according to a friend of the victim at the scene who managed to escape, Fyssas' last words were: "So what are you going to do now? Kill us?"

The victim's father has asked authorities to identify the person who tipped off the killer. He also called for the death penalty, although Greece has a ban on capital punishment.

After the murder, thousands of Greeks took to the streets for anti-fascist protests in Athens and Thessaloniki, where there were repeated clashes between demonstrators and police. In Thessaloniki, protesters tried to reach the local branch of the Golden Dawn party.

Headlines reflected the shock many Greeks feel about the bloody crime. "No more!" wrote centrist daily Ta Nea. "The Golden Dawn has blood on its hands. The government, all constitutional parties and Greek society must not live trapped in a circle of fascist violence," it said in an editorial. "Resist -- The Monster of Nazism Kills," read a headline in centrist daily Ethnos on Thursday.

Government Calls for Action

The two-party coalition government of the conservative New Democracy and Socialists (PASOK), which had done little to address the rising influence and activities of the Golden Dawn, now say they are determined to take action.

"New measures will be passed urgently, to choke the actions of Golden Dawn," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told SPIEGEL ONLINE. But he added that outlawing the party would be ineffective and was not under consideration. "They would simply spring back again as the 'Silver Dawn' or something," he said.

In a televised address to the Greek people, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Thursday that "democracy is much stronger than its enemies imagine," adding that the government will not allow "the descendants of Nazis to poison social life, commit crimes, terrorize and undermine the foundations of the country that gave birth to democracy."

Not everyone is convinced that the government means what it says, including the main opposition party, the leftist Syriza. "The Golden Dawn has thrived under the tolerance of the government, the police and the judicial system," Syriza MP and parliamentary spokesman Dimitris Papadimoulis told SPIEGEL ONLINE, adding that this kind of tolerance can be found "even among people in the prime minister's own office."

Papadimoulis is hopeful that the shocking murder will rattle Greek society and become a wake-up call that will stop the rising popularity of the Golden Dawn.