THESSALONIKI, Greece — The mayor of Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki was hospitalized early Sunday after an assault by suspected far-right members at a rally, officials said.
Yiannis Boutaris, 75, had to be escorted from an event commemorating the massacre of Black Sea Greeks in Turkey during and after World War I when members of the crowd turned violent.
“They were hitting me everywhere. Kicks, punches, the lot,” Boutaris told state agency ANA Sunday. “It was a despicable attack, but I am well.”
Police on Sunday said they had detained two people in connection to the assault.
Footage from the event shows Boutaris initially being heckled. As he starts to leave, people start throwing objects at him and he falls to the ground.
Some of the attackers tried to break the windows of his car as it sped off.
Nationalist mob beats mayor Yiannis Boutaris in Thessaloniki Greece after a commemoration event. Dozen people approached the 75-year-old Boutaris and told him to leave the event, then attacked him with bottles. The mayor is known for his strong anti-nationalist stance. #boutaris pic.twitter.com/jgKNHdtLzi
— Taifer (@taifer_stories) May 20, 2018
The office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the attackers were “far-right thugs.”
The incident was praised by the daughter of Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn leader, Ourania Michaloliakou, who accused Boutaris of being “anti-Greek.”
“Bravo to each and every person who did their duty in Thessaloniki today. Respect and a thousand bravo,” Michaloliakou tweeted on Saturday.
A maverick politician, Boutaris has repeatedly angered hardliners in Greece with controversial statements on Macedonia, Turkey and Israel.
Among them is calling Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state and a hate figure in Greece, a “great leader.”
He has also dismissed as “idiots” those opposing a compromise solution in Greece’s longstanding name row with neighboring Macedonia.
The incident was picked up by Turkish media.
Hurriyet daily noted that Boutaris has called Turks “brothers” and has proposed renaming a central street in Thessaloniki after Ataturk, who was born in the city in 1881 and still draws Turkish visitors there.