Weapon stashes, press crackdowns, militant manifestos and more riots
The decline of the Greek economy has had polarizing effects on the nation’s political system—and tensions are running high.
Now police in Greece are on high alert after a new anarchist group claimed responsibility for killing two members of Golden Dawn, a thuggish neo-Nazi group that has both terrorized immigrants on city streets and surged to become Greece’s third most popular political party.
The anarchist faction, calling itself the Militant People’s Revolutionary Forces, wrote in an 18-page proclamation given to local news agencies that the attack was revenge for the fatal stabbing of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fissas. The Golden Dawn members were shot to death outside of a party office in Athens earlier this month.
Tit-for-tat killings has led to worries more violence could follow—and the anarchists are armed. On Nov. 16, police discovered a weapon cache containing assault rifles, hand grenades and ammunition buried in a forest north of Athens, according to Jane’s Intelligence Weekly. And if weapons buried in undiscovered caches are not used against Golden Dawn, they could be turned on the police.
Golden Dawn, a party that elected 18 of its members to parliament in 2012, has drawn worldwide scorn for using Nazi symbolism and expressing racist and xenophobic views. The neo-fascist party also has a history of violence.
The party’s leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, was jailed after Fissas’ murder—to which another Golden Dawn member confessed to committing—on allegations of belonging to a criminal conspiracy. Two members of the party also were sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail on Nov. 20 for firebombing the bar of a Tanzanian immigrant in Athens.
The attacks on Golden Dawn by left-wing radicals is also not without its sympathizers. Many believe that anarchists who are willing to use violence are the only effective means of defending immigrants and liberals against fascist attacks.
The anarchists’ have also received sympathy due to suspicions that Golden Dawn is colluding with some police officers—undermining the security forces’ credibility. In their manifesto, the Militant People’s Revolution Force referred to the police as the “armed dogs of the regime.”
According to an internal investigation sparked after Fissas’ killing, 10 members of the Greek police have been linked to the Golden Dawn party. But it’s unclear whether the party has merely sympathizers within the police or has infiltrated whole departments. “The investigation found no ‘organized cells, factions or unconstitutional hubs,’” The New York Times reported.
But some suspect the recent arrest of a Greek journalist could give credence to allegations of collusion.
The arrested journalist, Stratis Balaska, named Basil Makripoulia—a professor with far-right views—as the alleged author of an article that denied the 1973 student uprising which triggered the end of military rule. The Press Project, a Greek non-profit media organization, reported on Nov. 20 that police on the island of Lesvos arrested Balaska.
Because of alleged police collusion with Golden Dawn, there is growing concern among government officials that anarchist groups will turn their sights on law enforcement in the coming days, the Greek daily Kathimerini reported.
This wouldn't be entirely without precedent. In June, an anarchist group called the Conspiracy of Fire Cells claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on Maria Stefi, the director of a high-security prison in Athens. Anarchists are also suspected in a 2007 rocket-propelled grenade attack on the U.S. embassy.
“There were 527 arson and bomb attacks in 2012 and 254 in the first six months of this year,” according to Reuters, to which security and police officials attribute most of the attacks on anarchist or leftist “anti-establishment” groups.
In any case, Greece will almost certainly see more political conflict.
Thousands took to the streets on Nov. 17 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1973 uprisings. However, the rally turned violent in the late evening when protesters clashed with police in front of the Golden Dawn headquarters, culminating in one arrest and 20 detainments.