Angry crowds marched on Korydallos prison in Athens on Monday of this week as the trial of the Nazi Golden Dawn party began inside.
Thousands of workers and large numbers of migrants took part. Trade unions, including public sector federation ADEDY, called a national four-hour strike and the local authority held a shutdown.
“It was a massive demonstration,” said Stelios Michaelides from Socialist Worker’s sister paper Workers’ Solidarity. “People called for jailing the Nazis and legalising the migrants.”
A march led by ADEDY and anti-fascist organisation Keerfa converged outside with marches led by the Communist Party and the ruling radical left party Syriza. Some 69 leading Golden Dawn members are on trial.
The trial covers anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas’ murder in September 2013, and assaults on Communist Party trade unionists a few days earlier and Egyptian fishermen in 2012.
The court will also crucially consider more than 100 attacks to decide if Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation. This includes the 2013 murder of Pakistani worker Shehzad Luqman.
Conviction would mean long sentences for its leaders. Socialist lawyer Thanassis Kampagiannis is representing the Egyptian fishermen.
He told Socialist Worker, “A guilty verdict would be a vindication for those of us who have argued for 20 years that Golden Dawn is not a legitimate political party but a Nazi gang.
“It will bring justice to its victims. But it’s also about the political impact—Golden Dawn is still trying to create a political space for itself.”
It took strikes and mass protests after Pavlos’s murder to force the authorities to move against Golden Dawn. The trial faced lengthy delays, and much about it remains highly contested.
For instance, anti-fascists and Korydallos local authorities want it relocated to central Athens from the suburban jail that’s less accessible to protesters and the media.
The law used against Golden Dawn includes terror legislation that anti-fascist lawyers argue should be repealed. And they are striving to highlight Golden Dawn’s links to the state.
Thanassis explained, “The defendants include one police officer and two people from the armed forces. But it was originally to include many more.
“The murder of Pavlos Fyssas took place in front of at least ten cops who did nothing. So there has been an effort to limit exposure of the collusion between the state and Golden Dawn.
“Strikes and protests are very important. There was always a fear that after such a long wait the movement would leave this to the government.
“Syriza’s leadership has a mostly unspoken strategy of ignoring Golden Dawn so it can divide the votes of the right. But you can’t ignore a Nazi threat.
“The government has put the army and the police under the control of right wing ministers, who want to conciliate the repressive ‘deep state’ with the Nazis.
“The anti-fascist movement has to challenge this and actively break those links.”
Small groups of Nazis attacked some protesters and witnesses on their way to the court, including two friends of Pavlos. The trial is expected to take more than a year.
As judges announced that it would resume on 7 May, speakers at the rally outside announced that so would the shutdowns and protests.