Police stop Greek far right party from handing out free food to Greeks only

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An attempt by the extremist far-right Golden Dawn party to hand out food to Greeks only in defiance of a municipal ban degenerated 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, with television footage showing them marching him out of the building.

"The only thing these people know is the language of violence," Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said on state television after the attempted attack at a municipal charity distribution center in downtown Athens that he had been visiting.

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. Kaminis had banned such events in the city's central square and vowed Wednesday night not to allow the "soup kitchen of hate" to take place.

Party members, 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. 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 neighborhood.

Kaminis later visited a municipal food distribution center in the same area when he was confronted by Germenis.

"This man sneaked in, we didn't notice him ... and he tried to hit me," Kaminis told Vima FM radio. "At the last minute my personal guards stopped him."

"This man is armed," Kaminis added. "He attempted to pull (the gun) out."

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 spiraling, it has staged Greeks-only food distributions elsewhere in the past that have proved popular.