By Vasilis Lambropoulos
In the aftermath of last week’s shocking attacks by members of extreme-right and fascist organisations at Thessaloniki professional lyceums (EPAL), Greek Police is putting together the pieces of the puzzle of their expansive activity in Greece’s second largest city and their links to other far right groups throughout Greece and abroad.
The “Holy Battalion” (which stands for Greek racial superiority), The “Sacred Band”, which is active throughout Northern Greece, the “Autonomous Nationalists of Thessaloniki (that identifies ideologically with the Athens organisation “Combat 18”, which is responsible for 15 arson attacks in the capital), and “Vanguard Hellas”, which has extreme right members linked to the now defunct “Ideopolis Circle”, which ceased activity in 2018, are the top groups operating in the northern port city.
There is a total of seven extreme-right groups that have been identified in Greek Police probes – revealed in the Sunday edition of To Vima – and that are active in Thessaloniki, with a total of about 5,000 members or supporters, that combined constitute a small army.
A large segment of this “fascist” army is directly or indirectly linked to the outburst of violent attacks in the professional lyceum (EPAL) in the Stavroupolis area of Thessaloniki, in Evosmos, and to a lesser extent in Sykeona, Neapolis, and elsewhere – that have rocked Greek Police and political parties.
Educator acting as a “guide”
As To Vima reported, Greek Police has reliable information that at one of these EPALs, the main role in guiding extreme-right students was played by a teacher with similar views who has an important position in the lyceum.
He assisted students who are Nazi sympathisers in concealing their absences from school and in other ways as well.
Police also confirmed that many of the 100 individuals who were remanded in custody after the violent incidents at Thessaloniki EPALs were very active in anti-vaccination demonstrations in Thessaloniki, often along with their parents and relatives.
Some had previously been arrested for hooligan attacks – mainly by fans of PAOK FC – in Thessaloniki.
Fear of revival of Golden Dawn storm troops
The main fear is the prospect of a revival of the “storm troops” and “cells” of the now defunct far-right Golden Dawn party, exactly one year after the party was outlawed by the Athens Appellate Court and it leadership jailed with 13-year prison sentences.
Security Police officials predict that if the violent incidents are not limited by the arrest of members of extreme-right groups – Greek Police headquarters in Athens has ordered a zero tolerance policy nationwide – the violence may spread through the entire city, possible triggering a response from the estimated 3,500 members of anti-authority groups, or from members of the youth wing of legitimate political parties, who may stage legal protests.
Moreover, the mayhem caused by the recent attacks may lead to protest occupations of schools and a spread of clashes.
Fascist cells at EPALs
Greek Police has discovered that at many of Thessaloniki’s professional lyceums fascist cells have been created, each with 20-80 members who are linked to Nazi-sympathising, extreme-right organisations.
It should be noted that in the 2015 general election, Golden Dawn garnered 9.3 percent of the vote in Stavroupolis and 7.27 percent in Thessaloniki’s First Electoral District.
Physical training of members, link to anti-vax movement
Greek Police says that the top extreme-right organisation in Thessaloniki is “Sacred Band 12”, which has branches in Athens, Larissa, Amyntaio, and Germany.
With about 1,000 members, it is one of the largest extreme-right groups (four or five individuals have a leadership role). It was founded in 2012 and has played a leading role in violent clashes in Thessaloniki and in the city of Katerini in 2019. It has targeted even theatrical productions and former Thessaloniki Mayor Yannis Boutaris.
The organisation has participated in anti-vax protests and plays a central role at a football stadium gate with fanatic fans, who recently protested at the Thessaloniki International Fair against the ban on the entry of unvaccinated people at the city’s large Toumba football stadium.
Greek Police says it is a structured organisation that seeks to establish an operational role through the physical training of members and simulated exercises, similar to those once conducted in Golden Dawn “cells”.