Athens: Hundreds of anti-Nazi activists fired Molotov cocktails, rocks and bottles at riot police in Athens during a protest, with authorities using tear gas against the demonstrators.
The mostly left-wing activists had gathered here Saturday to protest a planned rally by neo-Nazi supporters in the city centre
The right-wing rally, organised by Greece’s extreme-right Chryssi Avgi or “Golden Dawn”, and backed by far-right parties from across Europe, was part of a controversial three-day festival dubbed “Hatewave”.
The rally had been moved to Athens after local authorities across Greece refused to host the gathering.
Held under a theme of opposition to Turkey’s accession to the European Union, some 350 participants from Greece, Germany, Italy, Romania and Spain gathered outside the Athens offices of Chryssi Avgi and were to march through the centre of the Greek capital.
The head of Italy’s Forza Nuova, Roberto Fiore and Romania’s Tudor Ionescu addressed the crowds before the planned march, but according to senior police officials the participants ended up cancelling the rally at the last minute.
Hundreds of hooded left-wing activists who had gathered to protest the rally then began hurling Molotov cocktails, stones and sticks at riot police.
Dozens attacked the main opposition Socialist party offices in central Athens, while others destroyed cars.
Some 200 left-wing activists ran into the university grounds of Athens’ Polytechnic University and began setting fire to the building.
“Right now we have restored calm and no one is left inside the university. It seems the left-wing activists have scattered in small groups around the city,” a police spokesman said.
Neo-Nazi organisers had refused to cancel the festival despite protests from local authorities and Jewish groups, which had already forced several changes of location.
For weeks, members of Chryssi Avgi played a cat-and-mouse game with police about the exact location of the gathering.
Initially set for the southern Greek town of Meligalas, organisers were forced to change the location to an undisclosed site after outraged local authorities refused to rent out a campsite to the neo-Nazi followers and white supremacists.
A spokesperson for Chryssi Avgi however said that participants would head to the town on Sunday.
The Greek neo-Nazis initially picked the town and particular dates for their festival to commemorate the massacre of 1,400 women and children by Greek communists during the Greek civil war in 1944 because of their alleged collaboration with the Nazi regime.