On streets of Athens, racist attacks increase

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Campaigning on a promise to “clean up the stench” in Greece, the party whose slogan is “blood, honor, Golden Dawn” has made no secret of its views on migrants: All are in the country illegally and must be deported. Greece’s borders must be sealed with landmines and military patrols, and any Greeks employing or renting property to migrants should face punishment.

The party vehemently denies it is involved in racist attacks.

“The only racist attacks that exist in Greece for the last years are the attacks that illegal immigrants are doing against Greeks,” said Ilias Panagiotaros, a burly Golden Dawn lawmaker who divides his working time between Parliament and his sports shop, which also sells military and police paraphernalia.

His party is carrying out a “very legitimate, political fight . through parliament and through the neighborhoods of Athens and of Greece,” he said.

The party’s tactics — handing out food to poor Greeks, pledging to protect those who feel unprotected by the police — are working. Recent opinion polls have shown Golden Dawn’s support rising to between 9 and 12 percent.

In late August, the conservative-led coalition government began addressing the issue of illegal immigration by rounding up migrants. By early November, they had detained more than 48,480 people, arresting 3,672 of them for being in the country illegally.

Rights groups also warn that what started as xenophobic attacks is now spreading to include anyone who might disagree with the hard-right view. Greek society must understand that the far-right rise doesn’t just concern migrants, said Kanakis.

“It has to do with all of us,” he said. “It’s a problem of everyday democracy.”

Dalton Bennett in Athens contributed.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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