THESSALONIKI – The swearing-in ceremony for Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who wore a yellow Star of David badge, and a jailed Golden Dawn lawmaker to the municipal council set off a brief firestorm of protest on Aug. 28.
Boutaris wore the emblem of Jews rounded up in the northern city by the Nazis during the Second World War and pinned it to his jacket.
The protests were sparked when Leftists objected to the presence of extremist Member of Parliament Artemis Matthaiopoulos, to take a seat on the municipal council although he can’t use it.
He was let out of detention for three days to attend the ceremony but will have to back to jail until the trial of Golden Dawn’s hierarchy and a legion of followers on charges of running a criminal gang.
Mathaiopoulos gained 7.7 percent of the vote when he stood for Thessaloniki Mayor in May’s local elections, helping Golden Dawn elect two councilors.
Protesters exchanged chants and insults with Golden Dawn supporters who sat in the opposite public gallery at the municipal council. Boutaris pleaded with both sides to calm down.
“The municipal council is not a coffee house or a soccer stadium,” said Boutaris, who prevailed comfortably in May’s elections, winning 58.1 percent of the vote in the second round to secure a second term.
His decision to wear the yellow badge carries significant symbolism as almost 90 percent of Thessaloniki’s Jews were killed during World War II after being transported to Nazi German concentration camps, leaving only some 10,000 survivors.