"The people know what is going on. The Golden Dawn will rise again." These were the words of the Golden Dawn's General Secretary, Nikos Mihaloliakos yesterday, after he was arrested in Athens. A historic week that began with the murder of a relatively unknown Greek MC had ended with the Greek authorities finally standing up to the Golden Dawn.
On Saturday morning in Pevki, a suburb of the Greek capital, the Greek Special Anti-Terrorist Unit surrounded Mihaloliakos' house. Within minutes the surrounding streets were blocked by policemen, while the district attorney knocked on the door of the Mihaloliakos family. Half an hour later, the leader of the far right was driven to the Athens police headquarters. Inside his house, the police seized three three unregistered guns (a pistol, a revolver and a hunting rifle), amunition, 43,100 euros, computers and some USB sticks. The next few hours saw more arrests of Golden Dawn MPs – iconic spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris; Yiannis Lagos, the leader of the local organisation of the Golden Dawn in Nikaia (the area where Pavlos Fyssas, aka Killah P, was murdered last week); George Patelis and eight more members were taken to the police headquarters. Others – like Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos – gave themselves up. Outside the police station Panagiotaros declared: "The world will elevate us, whether as Golden Dawn or under a different name."
Golden Dawn supporters gather outside the police headquaters yesterday A text message circulated through Golden Dawn supporters asking them to gather outside the police station to show their support. By noon a crowd of about 300 had ammassed - hardly the Spartan army the Golden Dawn hierachy have so enjoyed allowing people to believe exists, ready to defend their leaders - but enough to make a scene. Among the crowd were the GD MPs George Germenis, Artemis Mattheopoulos, Kostas Iliopoulos, Michalis Arvanitis, Nkos Kouzilos, Polyvios Zissimopoulos and Stathis Boukouras. Whether any warrants have been issued for the arrests of any of them though, is not clear yet.
A sea of Greek flags bellowed nationalist slogans such as "Homeland, Honour, Golden Dawn," "Homeland, Nation, Nationalism ," and slogans in support of Nikos Michaloliakos: "Hear us chief and listen well, you beat the system once again." As traffic flowed past them a passing car stopped as the driver waved a victory sign to the assembled Golden Dawn supporters. They burst into applause. Though, later on, when a driver said something they didn't like, her car was rained with spit before the police moved in to protect her.
The police station is just opposite the bleak Panathinaikos football stadium. Outside the stadium a group of elderly Golden dawn sympathisers were hanging around, looking angry. "All this country needs is a Papadopoulos to rid us of all the bastards," one of them told me. He's refering to the Junta Dictator Georgios Papadopoulos who was dethroned in 1974. It's a little like wishing Mussolini was back so he could sort out those bastards looking to imprison Berlusconi. Next to the old men, three younger tattooed guys are blaming the arrests on journalists: "It's because of the tramps. Look at all the ravens with their cameras, look at them lurking." After a while three MPs stepped out of the crowd to make a statement. "Today the state is executing a death contract," Artemis Mattheopoulos said, flanked by Michael Arvanitis and Stathis Boukouras. "The Golden Dawn has proven to be a free movement, one which isn't controlled by the system. This has been made clear by the fact our leader was arrested. In order to save their crumbling parties, the political leaders have destroyed the consititution itself. The Golden Dawn is here, we are not backing down. We are not imprisoned – ideas can not be imprisoned." At this point a cameraman for the Athens News Agency asked Stathis Boukouras to move his head out of his shot. Boukouras shoved the camera and ranted: "I am a MP, I am MP and I have three children. You have lost all sense of dignity, you journalist scum!" Seeing what was going on Mattheopoulos threw his toys out of the pram, "That's it," he shouted, "no more statements!" Michalis Arvanitis dissagreed though and soon, in front of the Greek media, a quarrel broke out between these Golden Dawn MPs. "I will not make other statements, that's it," repeated Mattheopoulos." Who do you think you are you talking to, you fucking brat?" replied Arvanitis. He made a move to hit him but people managed to get in the way. "Stop it Michali, it's a shame to fight each other," someone said as they whisked him away in the opposite direction.
It was all a bit confusing and hardly the united front the Golden Dawn would probably liked to have displayed on this critical day. After a few weird minutes, the supporters cheered themselves up with another round of anti-media chants: "Bums! Snitches! Journalists!"
At around 4PM, after some of the crowd had begun to withdraw, Ourania Michaloliakos, daughter of the leader of the Golden Dawn, appeared to make a statement. "I am very proud of my father" she said. "When a man is politically persecuted, their children should be proud of them. Nothing scares us and we are stronger than ever."
Golden Dawn members are taken to the Evelpidon Military Academy on Saturday night
By the evening the protesters had scattered and the detainees were moved by jeep to the main court complex of Athens. Another crowd of supporters were waiting for them, including Michaloliakos' wife, Helen Zaroulia. "You are humiliating them, my love!" she shouted. "Long live the leader!" responded someone else.
As he was being taken inside Ilias Panagiotaros turned to the cameras, "We will not back down, idiots. You might have put on a good show but now you have to face the austerity." "Long live Greece" screamed Kasidiaris behind him. For all this triumphalism though, the hierachies of the Golden Dawn are tasting humiliation for the first time.
UPDATE: Nikolaos Michaloliakos, has now been formally charged with belonging to a criminal organisation.