Today, the world learned of the stabbing death of Greek antifascist hiphop artist Pavlos Fissas, who performed under the name MC Killah P, at the hands of thugs affiliated with the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn. His death is just the most recent since the party’s rise in recent years, but may have tipped a country teetering on the brink of civil war into incredibly volatile territory. In response to the murder, antifascists have already clashed with police across the country, and Golden Dawn offices have been attacked.
I managed to reach anarchist contacts in Athens following a march from the site of Fissas’s murder that resulted in clashes with police, and connected with one activist long enough to get an interview. Given the reality of Golden Dawn infiltration of the Greek police, and other very grave realities on the ground, I’ve withheld my contact’s name. Below is our conversation.
So, what happened tonight?
Tonight there was a big demonstration, beginning where Pavlos was killed. It split in two directions, and some of the protesters marched toward the local offices of Golden Dawn, where they clashed with police protecting the building. The other group, which we were part of and was much larger, marched toward the police station. Obviously, we also encountered cops. There were some people in front of them – might’ve been police, might’ve been Golden dawn; it’s often hard to distinguish them – who tried to provoke us. They were chanting Golden Dawn slogans and calling us “cunts”. Our group was a mixed bunch, but largely anarchists and leftists. The confrontation turned into a chase, with the cops pursuing us. Some of us split off down narrow streets, a lot of us were beaten and tear-gassed. There were 23 arrests, and I’m told at least one serious injury, but I don’t know details. I did see an ambulance, at one point. About 30 people – including some journalists – were let into a building by a woman trying to shield them from police violence. They’re still there, surrounded. Some of us are in online communication with them, at the moment.
How large was the initial demonstration?
About 10,000 people. Could be more, could be less. But definitely more than 9,000, which is what the radio is reporting, right now.
At this point what’s known about the murder?
Pavlos was with some friends watching a soccer game. Some reports say he made some comments about Golden Dawn, others say his attackers simply recognized him, since he was a musician and involved in antifascist activity in the neighborhood.
Beyond his music you mean?
Yeah. Neighborhood organizing. There’s information suggesting Roupakias [the killer, now in police custody] circulated in the criminal underground – drug dealing, prostitution, and so on – and that he was paid by Golden Dawn to carry out the attack. This actually happens all the time; Golden Dawn routinely hires people from criminal networks to carry out these sorts of things. So, when Roupakias showed up, he approached Pavlos and asked him the name of the street they were on – then he and the other fascists began chasing Pavlos and his friend. When they caught him, Roupakias stabbed him in the heart, making an L-shape. He was apparently very precise. It’s likely this was not his first time doing it.
So, Golden Dawn is effectively sub-contracting attacks?
Yeah. This is pretty widely known, and has been for some time. I realize it sounds like a bit of conspiracy-theory, but it’s 100% known that they pay people for these “jobs”. Roupakias is one of them.
So, there are other hits they’ve hired people to carry out…
Yeah. Most of the immigrants that have been attacked or murdered by Golden Dawn; the 18 year old Pakistani that was recently killed, for example. They have a sort of contract with an athletic company, which allows them to kind of “sponsor” thugs, by floating them clothing, weights, and so on. Their basic job is to go into neighborhoods and attack immigrants. The arrests you all probably heard about, with the antifascist motorcycle patrols? Those were in response to this sort of thing. It’s a critical detail, in that this is quite dangerous. Golden Dawn has been rather smart in recruiting underground criminal networks. They have the guns, the drugs, the resources.
It appears Golden Dawn is sort of counting on this outsourcing dynamic for a sort of plausible deniability. They initially tried to say Roupakias wasn’t affiliated with them.
Yes. After the murder, someone called his wife and told her to dispose of anything that had to do with Golden Dawn. So, in the morning, Kasidaris was arguing that they don’t know him, but the cops found his membership card and other stuff in the garbage outside his home. Initially, he admitted that he was going to Golden Dawn offices pretty regularly – he said 5 to 10 times a month, but that he wasn’t a member. Obviously, that’s proven to be a lie.
What’s the feeling on the ground, right now? Is the State responding at all?
Supposedly. New Democracy [the Right party] made a statement that angered a lot of people. They basically asked why everyone is upset about Golden Dawn violence, but never violence from Syriza [left-wing party].
But Syriza isn’t engaged in street-level violence, is it?
No. I mean, they’re in the streets all the time, but they’re not taking part in clashes or anything like that. But New Democracy wants to argue that they’re just as outlaw and outside the constitution as Golden Dawn, anyway. They’ve been saying this since the 2008 uprising; that Syriza is supporting anarchists, is secretly behind clashes that happen, and so on. They were even accused of terrorism. Needless to say, this is utterly at odds with reality. They’re just trying to downplay Golden Dawn’s violence, by whatever means. They even tried to say Pavlos’s murder was the result of a soccer rivalry, not anything political.
When we were hanging out earlier this year, you said you were worried that tensions in Athens were escalating to a point at which violence was becoming the standard, immediate response to even tiny provocations – on both sides. With the recent Golden Dawn attacks on communists, are you worried that street-level violence could slide into civil war?
That’s what we’ve been talking about, all day, actually. It’s one of our biggest concerns. Things are so fluid, right now. We don’t entirely know if we need to begin planning for that, as an outcome. Golden Dawn pursues power any way they can. It’s an extreme scenario to think about, but not really any more extreme than our current situation would’ve sounded to us five years ago.
You mean during the 2008 uprising.
Yeah, at the beginning of the crisis. Golden Dawn was nowhere then. We were attacked by them in street fights as far back as 2006, and when we told people, they’d ask “Who’s Golden Dawn?” Now they have chapters in every neighborhood. Have you heard about what happened in Meligalas 2 or 3 days ago?
I don’t think so.
They staged a memorial where their Nazi “ancestors” were killed during the Civil War. They seem to like bringing up that history. So do the cops. When they arrest an anarchist or communist, they say things like “We’re going to kill you, like we did back then.” It’s a reference point for both sides, really.
What are anarchists doing in response at the moment?
We’ve been disrupting Golden Dawn activity, like their “for Greeks only” food distribution. We distributed flyers at one recently saying “We don’t need charity. We need dignity and solidarity.” We’re also building our own solidarity structures. For example, there’s now a medical clinic operating out of Exarchaeia; it opened last week.
So there are projects underway building solidarity with immigrant communities?
Yes. For example, there is a new group that deals with the expansion of immigrant detention centers in Greece. They’ve been doing great work. Generally, what we’re trying to do is approach things from the principle of dignity, and these projects embody that. A year ago, we were in more violent terrain, and there was more of a preoccupation with attacking fascists. I think this murder may have shifted us into another phase. It’s hard to say what will happen. It’s possible a lot of people will want to attack Golden Dawn. There’ve already been attacks on their offices all over the country. I don’t know if that will become more personal; if people will turn to attacking fascists in the streets, beyond just attacking their offices.
It’s also hard to predict how voters who’ve supported Golden Dawn will respond to this event. Will they finally be ashamed? Will they feel like they loaded the proverbial gun?
Is there really much chance of that?
I believe so, actually. If not, we’re at real risk of losing our humanity. We’re already well on our way, inasmuch as a politician from Syriza was on TV today saying that Pavlos represents the first casualty of Golden Dawn. And he said that straight-faced, with no shame, as though the immigrants who’ve been murdered don’t count; as though Pavlos is somehow more of a person. And that sentiment is fairly widespread. I think a lot of people will be “shocked” today, as though this most recent event is some sort of a revelation.
Like a white body is somehow more jarring to the collective conscience.
Exactly. Why weren’t people equally shocked when Golden Dawn murdered a Pakistani biking home from work? The only response came from anarchists and leftists. But maybe now people will finally listen. Maybe it’ll be like when Alexis Grigoropoulos was murdered in 2008. Police kill people all the time; that uprising happened because Alexis was someone people felt connected to.
And you think Pavlos’s visibility as a musician might provoke that same response?
Possibly. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s anger. I just find this “shock” a little repulsive, I think. A musician? A white male? It’s easier for people to identify with him than with nameless immigrants, but they’ve been killed by fascists, killed in detention centers, killed in police offices, and not seen nearly the antifascist response in the streets that Pavlos’s murder has.
Joshua Stephens is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and has been active in anti-capitalist and international solidarity movements across the last two decades. He writes on antiauthoritarian social movements for various outlets, splitting his time between the Mediterranean and Brooklyn, NY.