Protesters, police clash in Greek anti-fascist demos

Protesters, police clash in Greek anti-fascist demos

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Protesters, police clash in Greek anti-fascist demos

People gather at the site where Fissas was stabbed to death, by man who sympathized with far-right Golden Dawn group, at Keratsini suburb southwest of Athens, Sept. 18. REUTERS photo

Protesters and police clashed across Greece on Sept. 18 as thousands demonstrated against fascism following the murder of a leftist musician by a suspected neo-Nazi.

Police fired tear gas at protesters in Athens, the northern city of Thessaloniki and the western city of Patras amid heightened tensions following the killing early Sept. 18.

Around 5,000 people took to the streets in the district of western Athens where 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death outside a cafe, shouting "break down the fascists" and wielding banners that read "fascism, never again".

Most protested peacefully, but police officers fired volleys of tear gas at a group of demonstrators who pelted them with wooden sticks and stones, and arrested 23 people.

In Thessaloniki, where some 6,000 people marched, police fired tear gas after some protesters smashed shop windows.

Around 1,000 protesters threw rocks and molotov cocktails at police forces in Patras, who responded with tear gas. A retired police officer was injured in the scuffles, according to a police source.

A 45-year-old alleged member of the Golden Dawn neo-Nazi group who was arrested at the scene has confessed to stabbing Fyssas, a left-wing hip hop singer, police said.

The suspect's wife was also arrested for giving false evidence to police during the investigation.

The victim's father told reporters he had been "hunted down" by a group of assailants and dealt a "professional" stab blow.

Golden Dawn has denied any connection to the murder, which came a few days after a group of Communists were beaten by suspected neo-Nazis.

The anti-fascist protests came as around 20,000 people marched peacefully in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities during a two-day strike called by the civil servants' union ADEDY.

The were protesting against a job redeployment scheme demanded by Greece's EU-IMF creditors that is likely to bring additional layoffs in the recession-hit country.

Golden Dawn, which ranks third in opinion polls despite being implicated in violence, has capitalised on the country's recession plight and widespread anger towards mainstream parties for failing to tackle decades of corruption.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou blamed the killing squarely on Golden Dawn, condemning the group's "raw violence" and calling on other parties to "raise a barrier to the vicious circle of tension and violence".

Hard hit by the economic crisis, Greece is experiencing a sixth year of continuous recession and has a staggering 27 percent unemployment rate.

The indebted country has pledged to axe 4,000 state jobs and redeploy 25,000 public sector workers by the end of the year.