The applause that followed the news that Golden Dawn was now officially considered a criminal organisation – and no longer a legitimate political party – had barely died down when the water cannon and tear gas began. Most of the 15,000 people who had gathered to protest the Greek neo-Nazi group quickly poured onto side streets. Only a few dozen remained on the wide road outside Athens’s main courthouse to throw molotov cocktails at advancing riot police. It was a sudden, violent end to a demonstration that had been going on peacefully for hours. Some suggested that it had been triggered by undercover Golden Dawn supporters seeking to undermine the protest.
The messy aftermath shouldn’t distract from the verdict itself, which surpassed the low expectations of many here. “I don’t trust the Greek system,” a young woman called Maria told me ahead of the court ruling. “I hope that they will all be found guilty on all charges but I doubt it. There have been layers of corruption in the system for years now.” Thankfully, she was wrong. Not only were Golden Dawn’s leading figures convicted of operating a criminal organisation but one member was also found guilty of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in 2013; convictions for other members included the attempted murder of several migrant fishermen and causing bodily harm to a group of trade unionists – a charge sheet that speaks volumes about the organisation’s ideology and tactics.
But Maria’s fears are not entirely unfounded. Last week the EU’s Rule of Law report found that, despite reforms, there are gaps in the Greek justice system’s anti-corruption efforts. More judicial change is needed. Or, as another protester told me: “They say that justice is blind but sometimes it is more [blind] than it should be here.”