Last month, Greece’s right-wing, ultra-nationalistic Golden Dawn party announced that it had opened an office in Astoria, Queens. The news created quite a stir, leading to outcry from everyone from hactivist group Anonymous, who took down the party’s website in protest, to NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who staged a rally against the group in Astoria’s Athens Square. Amidst the uproar, though, no one has been able to actually locate Golden Dawn’s office.
Though it’s not for lack of trying. Several people have pointed to Astoria’s Stathakion Center and its associated organization, the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, citing a picture of Golden Dawn members hoisting a flag inside the center and a food drive the group supposedly held at the building. In one heavily re-blogged post, Tumblr user “Fuck Yeah Anarchist Banners” called the Stathakion Center one of the party’s “first U.S, alliances,” and backhandedly advocated for violent action against the building. Violence and destruction of property are “illegal and thus, inherently wrong,” goes the sarcastic disclaimer at the end of the blog post, “regardless of how little harm it caused and how much good it caused.”
The only problem? The Stathakion Center and the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York have no connection, formal or informal, to the Golden Dawn party. Elias Tsekeries, president of the federation, says his organization is “absolutely not” associated with Golden Dawn and is strongly against everything the party stands for.
“How can you condone something like that?” Tsekeries told ANIMAL. “It’s impossible. We’re not that stupid to support somebody that’s anti-immigration. We, ourselves, are immigrants and products of immigrants.”
Cristos Vournas, vice president of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, even appeared at the aforementioned protest event alongside Bill de Blasio and Aravella Simotas, publicly condemning Golden Dawn.
“We all came from somewhere. We say, ‘God bless America,’” said Tsekeries. “Why do we say, ‘God bless America?’ Because America gave us the opportunity to excel, and be who we are today.”
What about the food drive, and the picture of Golden Dawn members holding up their flag inside the Stathakion Center? “Anybody can walk into the center,” said Tsekeries, “because we’re a democratic organization. They took a picture, but nobody knew they took a picture,” adding that board members only saw the picture when it was posted to the internet.
As soon as Vournas caught wind of the nature of the organization, the men were handily told to leave the premises. And though Golden Dawn members have come soliciting at the center a few times since, they’re always inevitably kicked out. As a 501(c)(3) corporation, the federation isn’t allowed to support any politically-aligned organizations, and its board members are personally against Golden Dawn’s politics as well.
It’s unclear whether the party even has an office in the city. A report in the National Herald, Astoria’s Greek newspaper, stated that “no offices for the group have been identified,” and Tsekeries says he hasn’t heard anything about an office in the neighborhood, and that members tend to simply walk around and solicit people on the street.
(Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMAL New York)