Costas Tsiamanis, a 40-year-old pharmacist, is telling me his story in a café in Agios Panteleimonas, the area of Athens where he grew up: how and why he became a member of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
Tsiamanis recounts how he joined others in his neighbourhood in 2008 to clear the immigrants from the main square. He “had to do something,” he says. The area was “covered” with immigrants who were “involved in criminal activity,” “making it dangerous for people to walk in the street after dark.” The community had requested assistance from the mainstream political parties to tackle the problems in the area, but to no avail. Following their anti-immigrant drive, Tsiamanis and the others turned to Golden Dawn for support. The party established a presence in the area and Tsiamanis became an active member.
Tsiamanis goes on to elaborate on the kinds of “assistance” that Golden Dawn provides. The under-resourced police, for instance, often don’t have enough officers to respond when crimes are reported, so Golden Dawn members go to “help.”