It's being called the largest trial against a fascist group since Nuremberg. An Athens court has convicted the neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn of operating a criminal organization in a historic decision on Wednesday. At it's peak, the Golden Dawn was the third largest party in Parliament.
As anti-migrant sentiments consumed Europe, Golden Dawn became the trailblazer for what would become a series of right-wing populist movements. The difference between Golden Dawn and the rest is the fact that it was somewhat successful, winning 17 seats in 2015.
This did not last long as they lost all their seats in 2019, and were brought to Justice through a 5-year-long investigation.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou of the Hellenic Republic tweeted that this was an "important day for Democracy."
The Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also tweeted out praise for Democracy.
To many, it seemed as though Democracy was beginning to fade in its birthplace. A Socialist Government, an absent reasonable centre, and a Neo-Nazi party, all made up the status quo in Greece.
Having grown up in Greece during this time, the background noise of the television was occupied almost exclusively by unrest. An economic recession plagued Greece throughout the 2000s, and with many giving blame to establishment politicians who very quickly became unpopular. What seem like permanent protests seem strange to many in the West, but to Greeks, this was normal life.
Many Greeks had to blame their new-found poverty on something or someone. This was where Golden Dawn thrived, as it promoted isolationism and oppression of immigrants. The migrant crisis itself did not help as thousands poured into a European country ill-equipped to handle them. Europe as a concept was failing to many Greeks.
Then in 2015, a choice was made, but it was divided. The majority put their face into Syriza, a Socialist Party, promising a potential GREXIT. Others put their faith in Golden Dawn, promising to rid the country of those who are different. As populism grew, very few chose the reasonable centre.
Spirits soon demoralized as the newly elected Socialist government did not leave Europe, even after a bailout referendum where Greeks proclaimed they did not want to do business with the EU anymore. This led to revered Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis resigning, and the Socialist promises of Syriza leaving a bad taste in peoples mouths.
Things on the streets only got worse. Golden Dawn became more violent and in one famous instance, murdered Pavlos Fyssas (Killah P), a leftist rapper. This was also part of the trial as 14 Golden Dawn members were convicted for murdering the rapper.
Amid the chaos and division, something seemingly happened among the Greek public. There was a tribal fatigue. The senseless swinging of the pendulum got the country nowhere economically, or culturally. Just as the fringe ideologies rose to power, they very soon collapsed on themselves. Golden Dawn was seen as nothing more than a thug group, and Syriza was quickly seen as a Socialist con job that manipulated people.
Ask any Greek about politics, and they will often give a jaded answer, remarking how politicians are all full of shit. This cynicism is a 2,500 year traditional we hold very dear to our hearts. In the end, there was an invisible line that was crossed, and the Greeks chose reason above ideology.
In 2019, Kyriakos Mitsotakis became the next Prime Minister of Greece, with a significant majority government under the Conservative Party of the country (New Democracy). This level of coalescence was long forgotten in Greece.
Almost just as important for the 2019 election, the Golden Dawn was completely wiped out of power with zero seats.
An already busy new government was hard at work undoing the economic damage done to Greece, but it was more importantly implementing a new political culture. This new political culture is in a sense, not so new at all, but rather a return to reason and basic tenets of Western Democracy. Free speech, dialogue, individual freedom. These precious ideas were almost taken away by Fascism. Almost.
In the end, Greeks ignored COVID-19 regulations and took the streets to celebrate the end of the Golden Dawn.
Just as it has before, Greece rejected totalitarianism. In the midst of civil unrest in the United States, it is imperative that we do the same, and embrace basic Western Principles.
Democracy has prevailed where it began, in Greece.