Anti-fascists gathered in the Greek port city of Piraeus on Friday night to counteract a neoNazi Golden Dawn group march, also in Piraeus, which campaigned against the arrival of refugees from war torn countries in the Middle East to Greece.
At the Golden Dawn rally stun grenades were used to disperse members of the crowd and both anti-Islamic and racist chanting was heard, according to local reports.
The gathering of anti-fascists sought to show solidarity with the refugees, who hail mainly from Syria and Afghanistan, according to activists involved in the demonstration.
“Golden Dawn is rushing to take the initiative before this happens. And the government’s move towards policing refugees has created an opening for the fascists,” said Panos Garganas the editor of Greece’s Socialist Workers' publication before the march.
“”They are now saying there is an Islamic invasion of Greece, and it needs a new government to get rid of all the ‘jihadis,’” he added.
“Now we are rushing to organize a counter-demonstration. We have beaten them in Piraeus twice before and hopefully will again — but it is a tough situation.”
Far right demonstrations have been on the rise in Europe since the migrant crisis began last year. Violent clashes erupted on the Greek island of Chios Thursday night after an angry crowd of locals, including members of the Golden Dawn political movement, confronted hundreds of refugees who have been living in the island's port for a week.
Local reports say fireworks and bottles were thrown into the refugees' encampment and the migrants, after several hours of persuasion from Greek police, agreed to move out of the port to a nearby open facility.
Greece is at the center of the refugee crisis which has seen scores make the often arduous journey from Turkey to Greece by boat in order to reach European soil.
A new deal between the European Union and Turkey stipulates migrants who have arrived illegally in Greece since March 20 would be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.