In a tense atmosphere in an Athens cemetery, more than 2,000 mourners bid farewell on Thursday to an anti-racism rapper who was stabbed to death by a man sympathising with the far-right Golden Dawn party. The killing of 34-year-old Pavlos Fissas touched a nerve in Greece, where economic hardship has worsened social tensions and rallies in several cities to mark his death turned violent late on Wednesday. "Pigs! Fascists! Murderers!" mourners chanted as relatives carried Fissas's white coffin into a graveyard on a hill overlooking the working-class Keratsini suburb were he was stabbed.
As others sang his songs, one man shouted: "Immortal!" Fissas, who went by the stage name Killah P, was stabbed twice in the heart and chest on Tuesday night in a brawl after a soccer match shown in a cafe. Several rallies by anti-establishment groups and unions, which turned a 48-hour anti-austerity strike into a protest over his killing, were planned for later on Thursday.
A self-proclaimed supporter of the fiercely anti-immigrant group confessed to the killing. The 45-year-old, who has been pictured in Greek media with his arm around a Golden Dawn lawmaker, was due to appear before a prosecutor on Saturday. Golden Dawn, Greece's third most popular party, condemned the killing and denied involvement in the attack. It said those who accused the party were "wretched sycophants" trying to win votes. The party, with an emblem resembling a swastika, rose from obscurity to win 18 seats in parliament in elections last year on an anti-immigrant and anti-corruption agenda. Its members have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes but the party rejects the neo-Nazi label.
Human rights' groups have long accused the party of being linked to attacks on immigrants but this is the first time it is being is investigated for evidence linking it to an attack. On the streets of Athens, talk was of Golden Dawn and austerity. "I'm afraid things have become very serious," Lydia Montesanto, a 62-year-old pensioner said of the stabbing. "Yes, the government has ravaged our wages and pensions but the time has come for all of us to kick Golden Dawn out of parliament and tell Europe it needs to stop the austerity that is breeding these things," she said.
Above a photo of a swastika in a red circle with a line running through it, Greece's top selling daily Ta Nea screamed on its front page: "Enough is enough!" On Thursday night, more than 5,000 people rallied in Athens on the spot where Fissas was stabbed. Police fired teargas at protesters who hurled stones and petrol bombs at a police station and set garbage containers on fire. Clashes between police and demonstrators were also reported in two other cities, Patras and Thessaloniki, on Thursday night. Greece, the epicentre of the euro zone debt crisis, has been hit hard by years of deep recesssion brought on by tough austerity required by international lenders.
Unemployment data on Wedesday showed the jobless rate dropping slightly in the second quarter, but still at a huge 27.1 percent, with youth unemployment at 59%. Such economic pain has prompted widespread anger, some of it at foreigners, prompting at least in part the rise of Golden Dawn.