Greeks only' soup kitchen sparks protests in Athens
Members of Greek extremist political party Golden Dawn try to open a 'Greeks only' soup kitchen in Athens, as anti-immigrant feeling bubbles against a backdrop of increasing pover
12:19PM BST 02 May 2013
An attempt by the extremist far-right Golden Dawn party to hand out food to Greeks only in defiance of a municipal ban degenerated into chaos on Thursday with the city's mayor saying a party lawmaker tried to punch him and draw a gun.
The punch missed its target, landing instead on a 12-year-old girl, Greek media said.
Security guards restrained the legislator, Giorgos Germenis.
The party, whose members have been repeatedly linked with violent attacks on Greece's large immigrant population, had said it would give food to needy Greeks in Syntagma Square, opposite Parliament, ahead of Sunday's Orthodox Easter.
Mayor Giorgos Kaminis had banned such events in the city's central square and vowed not to allow the "soup kitchen of hate" to take place.
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Party members, with the Golden Dawn logo emblazoned across the back of their black T-shirts, arrived at the square more than two hours earlier than announced and began handing out bags of food after checking recipients' identity cards.
"Golden Dawn will stand beside Greeks, it will stand by the suffering Greeks whatever decisions the immigrant loving Mr. Kaminis takes. Greeks, keep your heads high, Happy Holidays! We will take our country back," said Christos Pappas, Head of the Golden Dawn parliamentary group.
Scuffles broke out between party members and riot police as authorities prevented the party's truck from unloading its cargo of meat and other goods.
Police used pepper spray to repel party members holding Greek flags on thick wooden sticks, and the truck was eventually forced to move on.
The party resumed its distribution from party offices in an inner Athens neighbourhood.
Mr Kaminis later visited a municipal food distribution centre in the same area when he was confronted by Mr Germenis.
Greek media said the girl who was hit by the punch was not badly hurt, and suffered a bruised forehead.
Golden Dawn, a once-marginal group fond of Nazi literature and symbols but which rejects the neo-Nazi label, is now Greece's third most popular party and won 18 of Parliament's 300 seats in elections last year.
With the country mired in the sixth year of a deep and poverty levels spiralling, it has staged Greeks-only food distributions elsewhere in the past that have proved popular.