Was Pavlos Fyssas' Funeral the Beginning of the End of the Golden Dawn?
Thousands of anti-fascists marched in Athens, pledging to batter neo-Nazis.
Newspaper headlines read, "That's Enough!" and "We Won't Be Scared".
On Thursday morning, I found myself in Athens' Schistos cemetery. As I arrived, I was met by hundreds of grieving Greeks, all staring at the white coffin of murdered anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas (known as Killah P) as it was carried inside the church. Everyone huddled together in reverential, shocked silence, with the exception of Fyssas' mother. "Why?" she cried. "Tell me why? Why, my son? It's unfair! Unfair!" Fyssas' father followed her; he looked exhausted.
This was a private event which had become a public one. The death of Fyssas is more than just a tragedy for the man and those who knew him, it's a watershed for Greece and it's torpid moral slide which has allowed the vile Golden Dawn to opperate beyond the law. For some people, Fyssas now resembles Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the teenager shot by police in 2008, whose murder inspired the greatest period of rioting in the city's recent memory. Much as the death of Grhgoropoulos inspired a generation of anarchists to resist the state, people are now saying Fyssas' murder may be the cause which finally unites Greeks to kick the Golden Dawn into history.
There were many cameramen at the ceremony, trying to shoot some of the procession, but whenever they did Pavlos' friends and relatives surrounded them and made them delete the footage. A few metres away, a young guy was waving an anti-fascist flag, but two women approached him and demanded that he put it down. "No one will hijack Pavlos' memory," they said.
This monument standing in the centre of Nikaia commemorates the assasination of thousands of Greeks by Nazi brigades on the 17 August 1944. The graffiti writes, "Pavlos, you are alive".
On the steps of the church, tattooed men – Pavlos' friends from the local rap scene and the poor neighbourhoods of Greece's west coast – stood smoking. The mood was one of quiet, seething anger. Across the street, a group of elderly men were chatting: "How is it possible to be breeding fascists in 2013?" one of them wondered. "What sort of minds do we have in this country?" Those around him sighed in agreement.
A little later, as a procession carried Pavlos' coffin to the cemetery, the solemn mourning innevitably slipped into something more furious. People pounded through the streets chanting anti-fascist slogans like, "One in the ground, thousands still in the fight!" and, "The people don't forget, death to fascism!" As Pavlos was being buried, his friends sang his songs and, significantly, someone screamed the word, "Immortal!" Clearly Pavlos Fyssas had become an antifacist martyr already.
Later on, I made my way to Nikaia to join the thousands of people marching from Davaki Square to the local Golden Dawn offices. The demonstration was to commerorate Pavlos' life and protest against the right-wing party's alleged involvement in his death. It had been organised by the Greek Communist Party (KKE), but the crowd was broader than that: antifascist activists, members of leftist parties, anarchists, trade unionists, students and pensioners marched together.
The demo started a little after 7PM. Thousands of people clustered in blocks, some holding placards that read, "Kick the neo-Nazis out of here," others chanted slogans that referred to the Greek Civil War. The march was supposed to head for the local Golden Dawn offices, but fearing a re-run of the violent clashes that hit Athens the previous night, the police redirected it.
I spoke to one protester – Spyros, a 25-year-old member of the SYRIZA party (the Coalition of the Radical Left) – who told me why he had come to honour Pavlos' memory: "We are not putting up with the fascists any longer – not in Nikaia, not in Keratsini, not in Kokkinia, nowhere," he said. "First, they were allowed to beat up immigrants, and now they've started freely attacking anyone with views opposing theirs. They are criminals, thugs; it is a disgrace for the country that gave birth to democracy to have fascists in its parliament."
Kostas, a 66-year-old who's been living in Nikaia for the past 45 years, told me, "That kid's death has got people worried – loads are scared of what will happen to the area, but we all need to keep calm. Our choices make up who we are. We need to think carefully to address the viciousness of the Golden Dawn."
The demo was a peaceful one, but the anti-fascist sentiment from those living in Athens' western suburbs was made clear. "Pavlos didn't lose his life for no reason; his death marks the beginning of the end of the Golden Dawn," said 23-year-old protester Katerina. "We're ready to fight them and we will not stop until we win. We are not tolerating them any more."
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