CAIRO - Hundreds of activists from across Europe have marched in Greece in protest against a far-right party accused of fomenting extremism and hatred against immigrants.
"Our message goes out to the entire Greek society and all of Europe, said Benjamin Abtan, the chief organizer and head of the European Grassroots Anti-racist Movement, the Greek Reporter daily reported.
This demonstration is only the beginning of the fight against neo-Nazism not only in Greece but also in Europe."
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Hundreds of Greek and European activists marched in Athens on Saturday, December 15, in protest against the rise of the far-right Golden Dawn party.
Scores of intellectuals and Nobel laureates took part in the march, including Dario Fo and Bernard Kouchner.
Protestors carried a banner reading Europe against anti-Nazism, which was propped outside the Greek parliament.
"It is very important that we, representatives of 20 European countries, come to Athens to show our solidarity with Greece, a country that is hit very hard by the crisis, and to fight against the surge of Golden Dawn, Europe's most dangerous neo-Nazi movement," Abtan said.
Let us be clear: fighting racism, anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism in Greece does not mean fighting Greece but fighting this ideology of hatred spreading across the whole continent.
Greek police, who are widely viewed as including some Golden Dawn sympathizers, arrested a number of protestors before releasing them shortly.
Founded in 1985 on the orders of a former Greek military junta leader, Golden Dawn won 18 seats in the Greek parliament.
The far-right party is known for its rhetoric against immigrants in Greece, which is a major gateway for mostly Asian and African migrants trying to enter the European Union.
At least four of the party elected lawmakers face criminal investigations for allegedly aiding and abetting anti-immigrant attacks, according to authorities in Athens.
The far-right party, however, denies accusations of fueling hatred against immigrants.
We're not cannibals here at Golden Dawn, said party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris.
Nor do we suck the blood of foreigners, he sai.
We are Greek patriots, true nationalists and we practice what we preach: a Greece for Greeks only.
But opponents accuse the far-right party of spreading hatred and extremism across Europe.
We're not denying the fact that Golden Dawn was elected to parliament, Abtan said.
Nor do we aspire to physically oust them from the chambers of democracy.
But Greeks have to realize that they are neo-Nazis and that their success story will whet the appetite of other far-right extremists in Europe, he warned.
Immigrants in Greece have been facing growing hostility as the country is struggling against its worst economic crisis in decades.
Pro-immigrant groups have said that racist attacks against immigrants have sharply grown in Greece since the economic crisis flared in 2009, accusing the police of turning a blind eye
Racism, anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism are growing without any strong and determined mobilizations from the democrats, Abtan said.
Despite growing criticism, a nationwide survey found that popularity of the Golden Dawn party grew by 10% since June elections.
We are consolidating our support as other parties crumble, Kassidiaris told The Times.
Let them have their march. Let them say whatever they want. We know we are in the hearts of the people. And we are here to stay.
Banking on economic woes, far-right parties and politicians have grown in popularity over their campaigns against Muslim minorities and immigrants in recent years.
Far-right Dutch lawmaker Wilders has called for banning the Muslim face-veil in the Netherlands and stopping immigration from Muslim countries.In Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats have unveiled plans to impose a moratorium on building new mosques in the Scandinavian country.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net