ATHENS — Violence broke out Sept. 18 out at a march in Greece, held to honor a rap singer whose stabbing death a year ago triggered a crackdown on the extreme right Golden Dawn party.
Hundreds of youths were involved in the clashes that followed a peaceful rally in Keratsini, west of Athens, where anti-Fascist Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed in the street a year ago.
Rioters smashed storefronts and set fire to trash bins to use as barricades, while police responded with tear gas. At least one bystander was injured. Police had no immediate reports of any arrests.
A volunteer for the Golden Dawn party was arrested for the murder of Fyssas, 34, while a criminal investigation that followed prompted the arrest of party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and other senior members.
The killing of Fyssas – who bled to death in the street after being stabbed – sparked protests across Greece last year and prompted an investigation into Golden Dawn for evidence linking the party to violent attacks after the government of Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras had been accused of going easy on the extremists to seek its voter base.
Thousands rallied, a day after a court ordered that the man accused of killing Fyssas, Golden Dawn member Giorgos Roupakias, was ordered held beyond the six months he has been in detention, until his trial. He said he was sorry for the murder and asked to be let out.
The short-lived violence began after dozens of hooded demonstrators broke off from the initially peaceful march and police in riot gear chased them through the streets, Reuters reported. At least four banks, two shops and one kiosk were attacked, a police official said.
Dressed in white T-shirts proclaiming “We won’t forget,” the demonstrators marched through the streets earlier, holding banners that read: “Pavlos is alive — crush the Fascists!” Hundreds of mourners laid flowers and candles at the spot where he died and where a monument depicting Fyssas with microphone in hand was erected.
The government has arrested all 18 Golden Dawn lawmakers and 60 party members on charges of running a criminal gang and for a flurry of assaults and wrongdoing, all of which its leaders have denied, as long as insisting they are not Nazis although they worship Hitler.
Golden Dawn, with a Swastika-like emblem, rejects the neo-Nazi label and any involvement in the attack, saying it is the target of a government-led witch-hunt on questionable evidence to rob the party of votes.
It remains the country’s third-most popular political force in opinion polls, two years since it entered Parliament for the first time on a wave of anger against the country’s economic crisis, rising unemployment and political corruption, although recent polls show its support has been halved from a year ago.