At the time of his death, Greek rapper and anti-fascist activist Pavlos Fyssas was little known beyond the country’s underground hip-hop scene.
But overnight he has become a household name and an unlikely symbol of social tension and racism in Greece.
Fyssas, 34, died on September 18 after being cornered and stabbed by a supporter of the country’s far-right Golden Dawn party following a row over a soccer match being shown at a cafe west of Athens.
Six Golden Dawn lawmakers, 14 party members and two police officers have since been arrested on charges of acting as a criminal organisation, marking the first time since the military dictatorship in 1974 that members of parliament have been arrested. The party strongly denies any link to the murder.
Police said they discovered weapons, ammunition and thousands of Euros in cash during raids on party members’ homes, including leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos.
Nikos Konstandaras, managing editor and columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily, believes the crackdown on the neo-Nazi, anti-immigrant party by the government was long-overdue.
“The head-on confrontation was a long time coming; until the murder of Fyssas by a man who confessed to being a member of Golden Dawn, the group appeared to enjoy absolute impunity.” “Greece’s economic crisis has uncovered many problems in our society. The rise of Golden Dawn is one of the most serious among these, but more importantly, it has also represented a major distraction from the fundamental problems faced by our economy, public administration and society,” Mr. Konstandaras said.
Since elections last year the party has managed to increase its support, capitalising on fears that illegal immigration has raged out of control while the economy suffers its sixth year of recession amid tough austerity measures and an unemployment rate of more than 27 per cent.
More than 150 attacks on migrants and political opponents were recorded last year and 104 so far this year, most attributed to Golden Dawn members, including an attack on Communist Party members which are said to have left nine people in hospital.
Two immigrants have been killed, again blamed on the party which has openly called for the immediate arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants. But only after the killing of Fyssas have authorities finally acted against the neo-Nazi group.
On Monday, the government submitted legislation to parliament aimed at suspending state funding to the party, with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras vowing not to let the party “undermine democracy.” For the past year, Greece’s EU members have looked on in horror as Golden Dawn, whose emblem clearly resembles the swastika and whose members openly applaud the policies of Adolf Hitler and wear black T-shirts and combat trousers at demonstrations, have gained in popularity. The party won nearly 7 per cent of the vote and 18 deputies in 2012 elections.
Golden Dawn has also won over many Greeks who are furious with the entire political system which they see as being self-serving and corrupt. They are demanding that politicians responsible for the economic crisis be brought to trial and have their property seized.