An extremist Greek political party’s plans to open a branch in Astoria have met opposition from local politicians.
Golden Dawn, a right-wing, nationalistic group that garnered 18 seats in the Greek parliament during the last election, announced its desire to set up a New York City office on the group’s website. While Golden Dawn’s website has since been shut down, locals have reported seeing literature produced by the party.
The group, whose main platform is anti-immigration, has been known to terrorize Greek markets, searching for people residing without proper documentation.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas rallied at a press conference on Friday, October 5 to protest the installation of a branch of Golden Dawn in the middle of the melting pot neighborhood.
“[Golden Dawn is] not welcome in this community, this city, or this country,” said de Blasio. “[Golden Dawn’s] hatred and bigotry will fall on deaf ears in Queens, the most diverse county in America, where people of every race, creed and nationality live side by side in harmony.”
De Blasio is among many who decry the group’s neo-Nazi affiliation. Its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, has been a long-standing denier of the Holocaust.
Simotas, who emigrated from Greece to the United States with her parents as an infant, was angered that Golden Dawn felt the community that had welcomed her family with open arms was a suitable location for such an organization.
“I’m very angry,” she said. “The reason I’m angry is because they do not reflect the sentiment in this community. Astoria is a community that was built by immigrants: This is a country and a community of opportunity. The fact that a group like this thinks Astoria is an appropriate venue to display intolerance and hate is wrong.”
Chris Vournas, first vice president of the Federation of Hellenic Societies, said representatives from Golden Dawn visited his non-profit group’s 29th Street office several weeks ago, requesting clothing to send to Greece. Vournas said many charitable organizations have dedicated efforts to assisting Greece since the beginning of the country’s recent economic downturn. However, the spokespeople lied about their intentions and did not disclose that they were members of Golden Dawn, Vournas said.
“We never invited them, we never accepted them because our organization is not political,” said Vournas. “Our organization has nothing to do with politics. We don’t accept [Golden Dawn] in the Federation, we don’t help them and we don’t recognize them.”
Vournas said the representatives photographed the outside of the Federation’s office and posted the picture on their website, stating that the office belonged to Golden Dawn. Vournas believes the extremist group has no place in such a culturally diverse neighborhood.
“How can we be anti-immigrants?” said Vournas. “We couldn’t be here!”
A reporter was unable to get in touch with members of Golden Dawn.