A leading representative of the Greek Orthodox church, Metropolitan Bishop Ambrosios of Kalavryta, shocked the public yesterday by calling the neo-Nazis in the Golden Dawn party the “sweet hope” of the people. Online Greek news server newsit.gr called the statements of the clergyman symptoms of insanity.
Many other Greek news servers noticed that Ambrosios had praised the neo-Nazis for their recent violent disruption of a theater performance depicting Jesus Christ and his disciples as gay. In his view, the extremists had protected the pure name of Jesus with their violence.
Ambrosios also criticized the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), the largest opposition group in the Greek Parliament, for claiming the Metropolitan Bishop was enthusiastically preparing to bless a Golden Dawn office. He denied any such intention and charged SYRIZA with recruiting masked assailants for violent anti-government demonstrations who “plunged Athens into flames.” He did not forget to mention opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, who was married through a civil ceremony only instead of holding a church wedding as is still the tradition in Greece, for the most part.
Greece now faces neo-Nazi demonstrations and support for them from various quarters. Justified concerns are growing that the police are linked to the neo-Nazis because authorities are doing little to intervene against their racist attacks, which are becoming increasingly daring.
The BBC’s online news server has reported that a Greek MP with the extremist party estimates that 50 – 60 % of police staff support Golden Dawn. “Greek society is prepared, even though no one likes it, for battle. This is a new kind of civil war,” Greek MP Ilias Panagiotaros has claimed. He otherwise makes a living selling personal security paraphernalia, including face masks and t-shirts glorifying football violence.
The BBC reports that similar opinions are widespread in the country and says Panagiotaros’s actions speak louder than his words. Last week it was he who led the demonstration that violently halted the theatrical performance of “Corpus Christi” by American playwright Terence McNally, who depicts Jesus and his apostles as gays in the drama. Panagiotaros was captured on camera shouting homophobic, racist slogans.
Director Vasilis Laertis called police for help, but they did not intervene. “This was the Greek Kristallnacht,” he said, referring to the Nazis’ anti-Jewish pogroms. He also said members of Golden Dawn had telephoned his mother and threatened to send her a package containing her son’s body in pieces. “I want to know whether we are living in a democracy or a dictatorship,” he said.
The BBC reports that similar activities by other ultra-right MPs have also been documented. One led a group against foreign-born stallkeepers in the Athens suburb of Rafin, while another rescued one of his arrested party colleagues from the custody of police officers.
Panagiotaros says Golden Dawn’s aim is to provoke the authorities to do their jobs. The name of the party is said to carry such weight that immigrants – who according to Panagiotaros are all in Greece illegally – reportedly leave town when they hear party members are heading their way. Police are also said to be prepared in places where there is a risk the neo-Nazis might turn up.
Since the last elections, in which Golden Dawn won 7 % of the vote, the numbers of those favoring the party have notably risen – allegedly as many as 12 % of the population support them, making them the country’s third-favorite party. Police alone allegedly favor the party to an even more marked degree. Panagiotaros claims that more than half of police officers are party adherents and also form an essential portion of his business clientele.
Anarchists have been trying to face down Golden Dawn, which profiles itself as anti-leftist. During one confrontation between the two groups, police patrols on motorcycles intervened and arrested 15 people. Those detained were allegedly subjected to beatings and humiliation in police cells and threatened with further persecution by Golden Dawn. The authorities, however, deny any inhuman treatment has been committed by police and say proof of this is that no complaints have been filed against them.