Tens of thousands of neo-Nazis rallied in Athens in support of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party, in the movement's largest demonstration of support since its rise to power in last June’s general election.
Men dressed in military uniforms, holding torches, donning swastikas and chanting anti-immigrant slogans, marched through central Athens in what was reportedly a memorial event paying tribute to the party’s “fallen soldiers,” The International Business Times reported.
"This is a day of remembrance. It's a day to remember that Golden Dawn is here to stay. And so long as it does, there will be hope for the country," Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris told supporters.
Hundreds of riot police and security officials were deployed to the scene of the march, which took place near the prime minister's office and the Turkish embassy in Athens, according to The Times.
The party, which has become notorious for its blatant anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric and has been responsible for perpetrating attacks on Jews and foreigners, has begun spreading its anti-immigration message in schools and youth clubs, as well as through online social media networks, according to recent reports in the international press.
Golden Dawn emerged victorious in the country’s general election last June, gaining 7 percent of the vote and 18 seats in parliament in what was seen as a barely fathomable increase from its 0.2 percent show of support in the previous election in 2009.
“As Greece's economic fortunes have plummeted, so Golden Dawn's fortunes have soared,” The Times explains.
The party’s surge in popularity has become increasingly worrisome for Jews and foreigners, who do not have to stretch their imaginations in order to draw parallels to Europe in the late 1930s.
"For a nation that suffered dearly under the Nazis, neo-Nazi gatherings like these should be banned," said Sofia Laniti, a 47-year-old saleswoman, who witnessed the march.
Vassiliki Georgiadou, a professor at Panteion University and an expert in far-right nationalism, who has studied Golden Dawn for years, told The Times that, "They discard the label of Nazism and instead play up the nationalist card.”
“They use ancient Greek history as a camouflage to hide their true identity: that they're fans of Hitler, anti-Semitism," Georgiadou added.