Following the Sept. 24 firing of five top Greek police officials and two Athens neighborhood police chiefs, the Greek army and police are to be probed after accusations of military personnel training a paramilitary wing of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party have surfaced in addition to the discovery of police batons, shields and helmets being discovered in a raid on Golden Dawn headquarters, leading to suspicions of police collusion by officers in sympathy with Golden Dawn.
The firing of the police officials resulted follows the murder of a left-wing activist in Athens by a Golden Dawn fan during street protests which then provoked larger mass protests and resulted in the raid on Golden Dawn's main offices. In the city of Evia, four other police officials were also suspended for failing to take action against armed men showing up frequently at Golden Dawn offices.
Greek media has recently been publishing stories detailing alleged involvement of Greek Special Forces in training the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn paramilitary organization which is suspected of directing racial violence against immigrants in the wake of the country’s economic meltdown.
Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos decided to take action against the rise of fascist activity within Greek military forces after last week’s murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a popular anti-fascist by a Golden Dawn supporter who confessed to the killing immediately after his arrest. Golden Dawn denies involvement in the murder of Fyssas.
A Golden Dawn party member told the local Sunday Vima newspaper that, “In Golden Dawn, we have an entire military structure with at least 3,000 people ready for everything.”
Another prominent Greek daily, The Ethnos on Monday published photos of military exercises at secluded training facilities with men in balaclavas alleging the men were being trained by elite Greek Special Forces who sympathize with Golden Dawn’s cause.
The leader of the left-wing Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras has said, that the government “thought Golden Dawn was a little snake and they patted it… now it’s about to choke us.”
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ insists his government is doing all it can to curtail Golden Dawn’s extremism. President Karalos Papoulis told Greek media that the top priority would be to eradicate neo-fascism in Greece. “From the time I was a young man I fought fascism and Nazism." "It is my supreme duty as president of the republic to defend democracy and the Greek people from the storm that is approaching."
The Greek economic crisis has created politically explosive social unrest, radicalizing large segments of the population. The crisis has seeded radical political groups with new members fomenting racial hatred and seeking to blame foreigners and the political establishment for Greece’s economic collapse.
Golden Dawn’s recent surge in popularity coincides with its fierce anti-immigrant campaign and its alleged organization of beatings of immigrant street vendors and other non-Greeks. Golden Dawn leaders insist they are not involved in racist attacks.
Golden Dawn party spokesman Ilias Kasidaris has been quoted in the Guardian accusing the government and Greek news media of waging war against the organization because simply because it has gathered so much positive attention.
“Golden Dawn has been radically strengthened, it has passed 20 percent in the polls and in a few months it will lay claim to the biggest municipalities in the land. We will not stop. We have justice on our side and more than a million Greeks," Kasidaris said.
Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikos Mihaloliakos, also accused the Greek political establishment of staging a campaign against the party, adding the attempts to ban it would not be successful.
"Golden Dawn is everywhere. It has spread to every city, to every village," Mihaloliakos said in a live video address on the party’s website. "It's in every neighborhood and you will not be able to contain it. Deal with it!"
Though the party insists it is not, Golden Dawn has become increasingly viewed as a fascist organization with a logo resembling a swastika. Adding more fuel to the belief of a Nazi ideology imbedded in its beliefs, Mihaloliakos has publicly denied the Holocaust.
Originally viewed as no more than a far-right fringe group, Golden Dawn gained in popular support following the Greek economic collapse. Starting out as an organization hardly anyone took seriously, Golden Dawn gained 18 seats in parliament in the June 2012 election.