About 3,000 leftist activists and migrants marched through central Athens Saturday to honor the memory of activist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, murdered by a neo-Nazi sympathizer four years ago, and Heather Heyer, the activist killed by a car at Charlottesville, Virginia last month.
The protesters gathered at Athens’ Syntagma Square and marched on to the US Embassy on their way to the main offices of extreme-right, anti-immigrant party Golden Dawn, demanding that the offices shut down and party members jailed.
Police wouldn’t let the march reach the Golden Dawn headquarters and had some firebombs thrown at them. Police responded with tear gas. The marchers have mostly dispersed, but a small group threw more firebombs outside police headquarters. Three have been detained.
The ultranationalist party remains the fourth largest in parliament, and the Greek authorities continue to grapple with how to confront the aggressive actions of many of its leading cadres.
Thirteen Golden Dawn lawmakers — and another four ex-MPs — have been on trial since April 2015 accused of membership of a criminal organization over the fatal stabbing of Fyssas in a street clash in 2013.
Fyssas’s murder shocked the country and sparked an investigation into the actions of Golden Dawn, which until then had not faced justice despite being linked to a campaign of violence against migrants and political opponents.
First elected to parliament in January 2012, Golden Dawn’s lawmakers continue to occupy an ambiguous role in a country that for years denied it had a problem with racism.
In the last parliamentary election in September 2015, the neo-Nazis lost about 9,000 votes nationwide from their tally in the previous vote in January, but still finished third with 18 lawmakers.Golden Dawn’s top leaders were arrested in 2013 immediately after Fyssas’s death but were eventually released after a maximum 18 months in pre-trial detention. Even the man who confessed to stabbing Fyssas, retired truck driver Yiorgos Roupakias, was conditionally released a year ago.
Golden Dawn recently dropped to 17 lawmakers and fourth place in parliament behind the Socialists after one of its MPs defected over a local constituency row.