Photos: Vima newspaper
For a second consecutive night the port city of Patras became a theatre of clashes between organized protesters and the police. A group of young people wearing helmets or covered with towels, with clubs and wooden sticks in their hands attacked the police squad with Molotovs and light bombs. Police, on the other hand, responded with tear gas. The clashes finished a little after 11 pm.
Before the clashes started residents of Ities neighbourhood, located next to the port, were protesting against the killing of their 30-year-old neighbour Thanasis Lazanas, who was killed by three Afghans. They insist that illegal immigrants, who have gathered in the region in the hope of boarding a ship destined for Western Europe, should leave. According to residents, the authorities have not been doing anything for years but they move immigrants from one place to another and the only thing they care about is not spoiling the city’s image.
The protests of the residents began on Tuesday afternoon, but at dusk they grew into heavy clashes, which were joined by the police and members of Golden Dawn. The battle scene unfolded in front of an abandoned building, in which hundreds of illegal immigrants have found refuge.
Police managed to arrest five people and among those injured were protesters as well as police officers. On Sunday authorities managed to capture one of the three participants in the murder - a 17-year-old male from Afghanistan. The other two participants, one of whom stabbed the victim with a knife at least six times, are still missing.
Police said that the chronicle of events on Tuesday, which everybody fears will continue, is as follows: Shortly after 6 pm about 200 residents of the Ities neighbourhood, which is located next to the port, gathered to protest against the murder of a 30 year-old man and insisted that illegal immigrants should leave the abandoned building. In their attempt to enter the building themselves and force immigrants to leave, they were stopped by the police.
At 7 pm another 200 people - residents of a neighbouring district, and members of Golden Dawn held a procession that led to the entrance of the same building, where participants merged with the other protesters.
After that many of them hid their faces with hoods and helmets and tried to re-enter the area of the building by throwing stones, small bombs, improvised explosives, wooden and iron sticks and other objects at the police, who, in turn, responded with tear gas.
During the clashes seven protesters and eight policemen suffered minor injuries. A total of 22 people were captured, five of whom were arrested. Serious damage was caused to a police bus and two police patrol motorcycles.
Meanwhile, the director of the port of Patras Costas Platikostas said in an interview for a local radio that the few remaining illegal immigrants in the abandoned building have left and were taken by bus to Athens. He added that for a long time the doors of all rooms were walled and water supply was interrupted in order to force immigrants to leave the building.
"A private security firm and employees of the port authority guard the area. Recovering the damage has already started." In a conversation with the Minister of Civil Protection, Leftheris Ikonomou, the governor of Western Greece Apostolos Katsifaras asked for more police presence in the regions of Ities, Zarouhleika and Paralia, where a large number of illegal immigrants are found.
The clashes were interpreted by public opinion as indicative of the risk of social conflict, especially after the promises of Golden Dawn that "cleansing Greece" will start happening more and more often. In his statement regarding the case, the Minister of Civil Protection said that in an organized society such as the Greek one, prevention and combating crime are in the hands of the police only. "Let's not forget that behind the figures, which indicate illegal immigration, people are standing. Therefore, phenomena such as assault, lack of sober thought and expression of extreme and violent action do nothing to solve the problem. We will not allow anyone to replace the Greek police."
Commenting on the case, Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris did not deny that members of the organization were involved in the clashes. "Our members are also residents of the city and are directly affected by crime, which comes from the presence of illegal immigrants there."