Established By: Nikolaos Michaloliakos
Also Known As: Popular Association – Golden Dawn
Country Of Origin: Greece
Leaders: Nikolaos Michaloliakos
Key Members: Nikolaos Michaloliakos
Operational Area: Greece
Number Of Members: Unknown
Involved In: Shooting, Beating
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Golden Dawn is a far-right political party in Greece. It is led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos. The party is regularly described as neo-Nazi by news media and academic sources, and members are frequently responsible for anti-semitic graffiti. The party denies that it has any official connection to Neo-Nazism. Although it uses the Roman salute, a salute used by the Italian Fascist and German National Socialist movements.
It draws its inspiration in this primarily from the 4th of August Regime established by Ioannis Metaxas, the Greek nationalist leader and dictator, whose National Youth Organization (and later, his entire government) adopted upon taking power. Ioannis Metaxas was the dictator of Greece from 1936 to 1940, when an invasion by the Axis Powers defeated his regime after he refused to surrender. Ohi Day, or “No Day”, the anniversary of Metaxas’ refusal to surrender to accept Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s demand for surrender, is still a celebrated holiday in Greece. Likewise, the Golden Dawn’s meander symbol, while sometimes compared to the National Socialist Swastika, is a symbol drawn from Greek art, which the Golden Dawn sees as representing bravery and eternal struggle.
Scholars and media have described it as neo-Nazi and fascist, though the group rejects these labels. Members have expressed admiration of the former Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas of the 4th of August Regime (1936–1941). They have also made use of Nazi symbolism, and have praised figures of Nazi Germany in the past. According to academic sources, the group is racist and xenophobic, while the party’s leader has openly identified it as nationalist and racist. Michaloliakos began the foundations of what would become Golden Dawn in 1980, when he published the first issue of the right-wing, pro-military junta journal with that name.
In this context Golden Dawn had its origins in the movement that worked towards a return to right-wing military dictatorship in Greece. Michaloliakos has had links with Colonel George Papadopoulos, the main leader of the Greek military junta of 1967–74. Golden Dawn first received widespread attention in 1991, and in 1993 registered as a political party. By this time Golden Dawn had adopted several southern Balkan focused regional objectives as its main programme: to promote the idea of a Greater Greece through the expansion of Greek territory into southern Albania (Northern Epirus), the Republic of Macedonia, and southern Bulgaria, and ultimately Greece’s reconquest of Constantinople and western Anatolia through war with Turkey; to push for the complete Hellenisation of Greek Macedonia and Western Thrace through the expulsion of Northern Greece’s last remaining Bulgarian-speaking minority (or so-called Slavophone Greeks) and the indigenous Turkish-speaking Muslim minority of East Macedonia and Thrace that dates to the early Ottoman period (see Western Thrace Turks); and to support Greece’s traditional, fellow-Christian Orthodox Serb allies in combating Balkan Islam, such as through contributing fighters to the Greek Volunteer Guard that helped capture Srebrenica—and was thereby complicit in war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims.
By the mid-2000s, Golden Dawn had redirected its attention to opposing non-European, and particularly Muslim, immigration into the mainly Greek areas of southern Greece and Athens. Golden Dawn had temporarily ceased political operations in 2005 and was absorbed by the Patriotic Alliance. The Alliance, in turn, ceased operations after Michaloliakos withdrew support in the spring of 2007. Golden Dawn held its sixth congress, in March 2007, where party officials announced the resumption of political activities. At local elections on 7 November 2010 Golden Dawn got 5.3% of the vote in the municipality of Athens, winning a seat at the City Council.
In some neighbourhoods with large immigrant communities it reached 20%. The party ran a campaign during the Greek national elections of 2012 based on concerns about unemployment, austerity, the economy, and immigration, which gained a large increase in support from the Greek electorate. It received 7% of the popular vote, enough for the party to enter the Hellenic Parliament for the first time with 21 seats. Following a second election in June 2012, this was reduced to 18 seats. Following an investigation into the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013, Michaloliakos, and several other Golden Dawn MPs and members, were arrested and held in pre-trial detention on suspicion of forming a criminal organization. The trial is set to begin on 20 April 2015.
Golden Dawn claimed to have local organizations in 32 Greek cities, as well as in Cyprus. The party created the Committee of National Memory, to organize demonstrations commemorating the anniversaries of certain Greek national events. Since 1996, the Committee of National Memory has organized an annual march, usually on 31 January in Athens, in memory of three Greek officers who died during the Imia military crisis. According to the European National Front website, the march in 2006 was attended by 2,500 people, although no neutral sources have confirmed that number. The Committee of National Memory has continued its activities, and a march took place on 31 January 2010.
The Committee of National Memory has organized annual rallies on 17 June in Thessalonica, in memory of Alexander the Great. Police confronted the participants of the rally of 2006, forcing Golden Dawn and Patriotic Alliance members to leave the area after conflicts with leftist groups. Later that day, Golden Dawn members gathered in the building of state-owned television channel ERT3 and held a protest as they tried to stop the channel from broadcasting. Police surrounded the building and arrested 48 Golden Dawn members.
In September 2005, Golden Dawn attempted to organize a festival called “Eurofest 2005 – Nationalist Summer Camp” at the grounds of a Greek summer camp. The planned festival depended on the participation of the German National Democratic Party of Germany, the Italian Forza Nuova and the Romanian Noua Dreaptă, as well as Spanish and American far-right groups. The festival was banned by the government.In June 2007, Golden Dawn sent representatives to protest against the G8 convention in Germany, together with the National Democratic Party of Germany and other European far-right organizations.
June 2011, Foreign Policy reported that in the midst of the 2010–2011 Greek protests, gangs of Golden Dawn members were increasingly being seen in some of the higher-crime areas of Athens. In May 2012, the BBC reported on how Golden Dawn had become sort of a local ‘Robin Hood’ in some high-immigration areas of Athens, since the party was developing a social program which included the delivery of free or minimal cost food among the most unfavored strata of ethnic Greeks. The party offers protection for victims of crime, a service that has been appreciated by citizens and utilized by the police, which refers Athenians to the Golden Dawn for help, especially when immigrant crime is involved. The party, however, demands allegiance in return for their service.
Campaign of violence:
Members of Golden Dawn have been accused of carrying out acts of violence and hate crimes against immigrants, political opponents, LGBT people and ethnic minorities. Golden Dawn’s offices have been attacked repeatedly by anarchists and other leftists and clashes between members of Golden Dawn and leftists have not been unusual.
In January 1998, Alexis Kalofolias, the vocalist of the band The Last Drive, was attacked and suffered permanent damage to his right eye, losing 2% of his eyesight. KLIK magazine and the newspaper Eleftherotypia, which is affiliated with left-wing politics, reported that members of Golden Dawn were responsible for the attack. In 2000, unknown suspects vandalized the Monastirioton synagogue, a memorial for Holocaust victims and Jewish cemeteries in Thessaloniki and Athens.
There were claims that Golden Dawn’s symbols were present at all four sites. The KIS, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, the Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and others issued statements condemning these acts. The Cyprus chapter of Golden Dawn has been accused of attacks against Turkish Cypriots, and one member was arrested for attacking Turkish Cypriots in 2005.
On 6 October 1999, during a football match between Greece and Albania in Athens, Albanian supporters burnt a Greek flag in their stand. This act was captured and broadcast extensively by the Greek media, leading to a series of angry reactions by Greek nationalists against foreign immigrants. In a specific case, on the night of 22 October, Pantelis Kazakos, a nationalist and a member of the Golden Dawn, said he felt “insulted by the burning of the Greek flag” and shot and killed two people and wounded seven others in an attack in central Athens.
All of the victims were immigrants, and four of the wounded remain paralysed. Other Golden Dawn members, feeling also “insulted by the burning of the Greek flag”, formed the hooligan firm Galazia Stratia (Greek for “Blue Army”). It has described itself as a “fan club of the Greek national teams” and its goal as “to defend Greek national pride inside the stadiums.” It has been reported that following Golden Dawn’s official disbandment in 2005, many former party members have put most of their energy into promoting Galazia Stratia.
Galazia Stratia is closely linked to Golden Dawn, and the two groups shared the same street address. Golden Dawn made no attempt to deny the connections, openly praising the actions of Galazia Stratia in its newspaper, and accepting praise in return from the firm. Galazia Stratia and Golden Dawn have been accused of various acts of sports-related violence. In September 2004, after a football match between Greece and Albania in Tirana (which Greece lost 2–1), Albanian immigrants living in Greece went out on the streets of Athens and other cities to celebrate the victory.
Greek hooligans felt provoked by this and violence erupted against Albanian immigrants in various parts of Greece, resulting in the murder of an Albanian in Zakynthos and many others being injured. Golden Dawn and Galazia Stratia were proven to be directly responsible for many of the attacks. According to Eleftherotypia, Galazia Stratia members severely assaulted a Palestinian and a Bangladeshi during celebrations following the success of the Greek national basketball team at the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Antonios Androutsopoulos (aka Periandros), a prominent member of Golden Dawn, was a fugitive from 1998 to 14 September 2005 after being accused of the attempted murder on 16 June 1998 of three left-wing students – including Dimitris Kousouris, who was badly injured. Androutsopoulos had been sentenced in absentia to four years of prison for illegal weapon possession while the attempted murder charges against him were still standing.
The authorities’ failure to apprehend Androutsopoulos for seven years prompted criticism by the Greek media. An article in Ta Nea claimed that Periandros remained in Greece and evaded arrest because of his connections with the police. In an interview in 2004, Michalis Chrisochoidis, the former minister of public order and a member of PASOK, claimed that such accusations were unfounded, and he blamed the inefficiency of the Greek police.
Some allege that Androutsopoulos had evaded arrest because he had been residing in Venezuela until 2005 when he turned himself in. His trial began on 20 September 2006, and he was convicted on 25 September 2006; he was sentenced to 21 years in prison. Golden Dawn members were present at his trial, shouting nationalist slogans; he reportedly hailed them using the Nazi salute.
On 2 February 2008, Golden Dawn planned to hold the annual march for the twelfth anniversary of the Imia military crisis. Anti-fascist groups organised a protest in order to cancel the march, as a response to racist attacks supposedly caused by Golden Dawn members. Golden Dawn members occupied the square in which the march was to take place, and when anti-fascists showed up, clashes occurred.
During the riots that followed, Golden Dawn members were seen attacking the anti-fascists with riot police doing nothing to stop them and actually letting them pass through their lines. This led to two people being stabbed and another two wounded by rocks. There were allegations that Golden Dawn members even carried police equipment with them and that Golden Dawn’s equipment was carried inside a police van.
Bomb attacks on Golden Dawn offices:
On November 2005, Golden Dawn’s offices were attacked by a group of Anarchists with molotov cocktails and stones. There were gunshots, and two people (who testified that they were just passing by) were injured. According to Golden Dawn, three suspects were arrested and set free. During the subsequent police investigation, leftovers from molotov cocktails were discovered in Golden Dawn’s offices.
Golden Dawn has stated that this was the reason for the organisation’s disbandment. On 19 March 2010, a bomb described by police as of “moderate power” was detonated in the fifth floor office of Golden Dawn, in downtown Athens. Twenty-five minutes prior to the blast, an unidentified caller contacted a local newspaper in order to announce the attack. The targeted building and the surrounding area were evacuated in response. The explosion caused substantial property damage but no casualties. The office reopened on 10 April 2010.
On 4 December 2012, a makeshift bomb containing dynamite exploded at Golden Dawn’s office building in Aspropyrgos, a suburb of Athens. The explosion caused significant damage to two floors but produced no casualties. On 13 February 2013 an improvised bomb exploded in the regional office of Golden Dawn in Piraeus. The explosion and the subsequent fire caused material damage. Next morning a similar improvised bomb exploded outside the offices of Golden Dawn in the city of Larissa, central Greece. The explosion caused only material damage.
Liana Kanelli assault and reactions:
On 7 June 2012, Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris slapped Communist MP Liana Kanelli about the head three times during a live debate on the morning show Proino ANT1; she had thrown a newspaper and sworn at him during the previous commercial break. Kasidiaris was subsequently locked in a room by the staff of the ANT1 TV station, but he knocked down the door and left. Greek prosecutors issued an arrest warrant. Golden Dawn blamed Kanelli for the incident. The incident resulted in several protests against Golden Dawn in Athens and other Greek cities. Political analyst Theodore Couloumbis told Reuters that the incident could cost Golden Dawn votes, especially among women, though other experts were of the opinion that images of violence could play in their favour—a Facebook page dedicated to Kasidiaris picked up 6,000 ‘likes’ within 24 hours.
Murder of Pavlos Fyssas:
In September 2013, a 35-year-old man who according to Greek police had ties to Golden Dawn was arrested for murder after Pavlos Fyssas, known as hip-hop artist Killah P, was stabbed twice following a brawl in Piraeus. The police later raided Golden Dawn offices in Athens. The party denies any alleged connections to the murder. An ongoing investigation has since confirmed that the man was in contact with party members prior to and at the time of the murder. A subsequent police crackdown led to raids on Golden Dawn offices and the arrests of several party members, including party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, who was imprisoned as a result of owning the office phone to which a telephone call, alleged to be associated with the murder, was received.
2013 shooting of Golden Dawn members:
On 1 November 2013, Golden Dawn members Giorgos Fountoulis and Manos Kapelonis were shot dead outside the party’s offices in Neo Irakleio, a northern suburb of Athens. A third, Alexandros Gerontas, was severely injured. Police described the event as a terrorist attack. Golden Dawn claimed that police protection of the building had been withdrawn shortly before the attack. Two weeks later, the anarchist group “The Fighting People’s Revolutionary Powers” claimed responsibility for what it described as the “political executions of the fascist members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party”.