ATHENS, Greece — Thousands of people gathered for anti-fascist rallies across Greece on Wednesday, a week to the day after the fatal stabbing of a singer sparked a government crackdown on the extremist right-wing Golden Dawn party.
The man held in the death of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas admitted to police that he had stabbed the 34-year-old, and identified himself as linked to Golden Dawn, a party which enjoyed a massive rise in popularity amid Greece's severe financial crisis.
The party has vehemently denied any role in the killing. Although the suspect has not been officially identified in accordance with Greek law, he has been widely named throughout the Greek media, which has also published photographs of him at Golden Dawn events.
In Athens, thousands gathered in the central Syntagma Square outside Parliament, hours after students and other activists held an anti-fascist demonstration and concert in the same area. Dozens of riot police were on standby near the rally area.
The demonstrators began marching towards the main headquarters of Golden Dawn, roughly three kilometers (two miles) away, with authorities shutting down main avenues.
The government ordered an investigation into Golden Dawn's activities after Fyssas' death, with the case being handled by Greece's Supreme Court and anti-terrorist squad under organized crime laws.
The court heard testimony Wednesday for the second day from alleged victims of attacks, reporters who have interviewed men claiming to be former or current party members, and from immigrant community representatives.
The crackdown has included raids on party offices and party supporters suspected of being involved in attacks. Police said they had arrested a 34-year-old in Crete after a raid on his house uncovered a replica gun, a military-style knife and a collapsible metal baton. Golden Dawn membership cards and other paraphernalia with the party logo were also found, police said in a statement.
Golden Dawn, whose senior members have expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler although they deny being neo-Nazi, won nearly 7 percent in 2012 general elections and holds 18 seats in the country's 300-member Parliament.
Its members and supporters have frequently been suspected of being linked to violent attacks, mainly against immigrants. The party had appeared to grow bolder in recent weeks, with alleged actions taking on a more political, rather than racist hue. Earlier this month, party supporters were accused of attacking Communist party members putting up posters in a district west of Athens. Nine of those attacked were treated in hospitals for their injuries.
Despite its reputation for violence, particularly against immigrants, the party had enjoyed growing popularity as poverty has risen in Greece. But Fyssas' death — the first killing attributed to political motives and allegedly involving the party — appears to have dented its appeal.
Recent opinion polls show drops in popularity in recent days, although it is still the third most popular party in Greece.
A poll conducted by the Alco company for the news website Newsit published Wednesday showed support for Golden Dawn sliding to 6.8 percent after last Wednesday's killing, compared to 10.8 percent in a similar poll in June.
The poll was conducted by telephone interviews of 1,000 people nationwide. It did not provide a margin of error.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company