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Far-right youths make Nazi salutes, throw firebombs at protest in Greece

Greek police arrest 6, detain 40 others during clashes at school in Thessaloniki

Police guard outside a vocational high school (EPAL) following clashes in the western suburb of Stavroupoli, in Thessaloniki, Greece, September 29, 2021. (Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP)
Police guard outside a vocational high school (EPAL) following clashes in the western suburb of Stavroupoli, in Thessaloniki, Greece, September 29, 2021. (Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP)

THESSALONIKI, Greece — Youths making Nazi salutes and hurling Molotov cocktails clashed with left-wing protesters at a school in Greece on Wednesday, forcing riot police to weigh in with tear gas, officers and witnesses said.

Two pupils were injured and treated in hospital after the clashes at a vocational high school in the northern city of Thessaloniki, local authorities said. Six people were arrested and 40 others detained, according to the police.

The attack on the left-wing protesters was backed by the youth wing of far-right political group Golden Dawn which in 2012 became the third-largest party in the Greek parliament amid fury over the 2009 financial crisis.

Support for the party has since dwindled — it did not make it into parliament in the last elections in 2019 — but it nevertheless remains popular in some parts of northern Greece.

The group entered the school dressed in black, the youth’s faces concealed behind masks, hoods and helmets, hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at a rival group gathered outside the school, police and an AFP reporter said.

Some of the youths gathered inside the school are seen on videos, published in Greek media and seen by AFP reporters, making Nazi salutes.

“We are deeply concerned by the fact that (the group) entered and left the school undisturbed without any intervention from the school management,” complained a regional parents and guardians association.

Riot police hold back demonstrators during a protest near a vocational high school (EPAL) in the western suburb of Stavroupoli, in Thessaloniki, Greece, September 29, 2021. (Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP)

It was the latest in a series of violent incidents that took place in this school in recent days. Last week, left-wing students were assaulted, while distributing flyers against a recent education reform.

On Tuesday, a rally organized again outside the same school by left-wing groups to protest the assault turned violent as well.

The Greek education ministry has condemned the violence and called for a prosecutor’s probe into the incidents.

A Golden Dawn youth wing issued a statement congratulating the perpetrators of the attack and expressing support.

Last year, a Greek court ruled that Golden Dawn was operating as a criminal organization, and sentenced members of its leadership including former lawmakers to up to 13 years in prison.

The extreme right party in the last national elections in 2019 didn’t get the necessary support to make it to the Greek parliament. But it continued to be popular in northern Greece ranking in fourth place in many cities, including Thessaloniki.

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