A mob of far-right nationalists attacked the 75-year-old mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece, on Saturday, leaving him hospitalized after he was beaten and thrown to the ground.
Mayor Yiannis Boutaris was attending a ceremony honoring Greeks killed in World War I when around a dozen ultra-nationalists also gathered at the event assaulted him.
Boutaris, who has been outspoken about his liberal policies, suffered kicks to the head and other injuries. A crowd of angry men hurled bottles and chased him from the commemoration following the attack, after which aides took the mayor to Thessaloniki’s Ippokrateio General Hospital where he was kept overnight.
“It was organized fascists who attacked me as a person and as a mayor,” Boutaris told a council meeting on Monday, according to Greek media.
Video of the incident shows a shaken Boutaris being helped from the event as a chaotic swirl of far-right supporters throw objects and attempt to hit him.
Boutaris described the attack ― reminiscent of a scene from the 1969 movie “Z” about right-wing rule in Greece at the time ― as a “nightmare,” and said several people struck him.
Authorities arrested several men following the attack, according to Greek media.
Boutaris is well known in Greece for his liberal views and support of multiculturalism. He is an advocate for LGBTQ rights, better relations with Turkey and has denounced anti-Semitism. As mayor of Thessaloniki since 2011, Boutaris also advocated for a mosque to be built in the city, and officials have begun work on a Holocaust museum.
Greece’s far right, which has become increasingly prominent and militant in recent years, has condemned Boutaris as a traitor. During a nationalist rally in Thessaloniki earlier this year, leaflets called Boutaris a “slave of the Jews,” and a Holocaust memorial was vandalized.
The Greek far right, including the Golden Dawn political party, has railed against refugees and multiculturalism as the country struggles to handle migration issues. Greece is often the landing point for refugees and migrants from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan seeking asylum in Europe, which has resulted in a violent backlash from anti-refugee extremists. In one incident, far-right attackers targeted migrants on the island of Lesbos last month and chanted “burn them alive.”
Ourania Michaloliakou, the daughter of Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, posted support on Twitter for the assault on Boutaris and said the attackers were doing their duty.
Mainstream Greek politicians condemned the attacks, including Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who denounced the assailants as far-right bullies.
At the Monday council meeting, Boutaris called for political disagreements to be settled in democratic elections rather than with the use of force.
“There can be no other way. Because tomorrow it will be someone else in my place. Somebody who will be beaten up for his ideas, his religion, his different sexual orientation, for the color of his skin,” he said.