In Exarchia, a protest district of Athens, a metro of discord

“Get your cops and get out! We do not offer you our place! » This Friday in early September, more than 2,000 people demonstrated, chanting slogans, in the Exarchia protest district of Athens to protest the construction of a new metro station in the area’s only square shaded by nearly seventy trees. The meeting place with its otherwise overcrowded café terraces has been surrounded by sheet metal and barbed wire since mid-August and is guarded around the clock by the riot police.

As the weeks go by, the gatherings are growing with almost 5,000 people mobilized. As night falls, protesters set garbage cans on fire, tear gas is used without restraint by police, driving customers away from neighboring restaurants. Far from Greek TV cameras, several people claim to have been beaten. Like this young woman who went to retrieve her motorcycle on September 9th and said she had been insulted and beaten by the police. She filed a complaint.

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The construction of Line 4 of the Athens Metro, which had been planned since the late 1990s, was won after a tender by a consortium made up of the French multinational Alstom, the Greek company Avax and the Italian company Ghella. The 38-kilometer route will serve 35 stations in Attica. The Athens City Hall considers this wind of revolt against the metro incomprehensible:

“This subway line is an essential work that will solve traffic and environmental problems and enable more than 400,000 workers, students and citizens to travel daily at a reasonable price. The Metro was intended to unite all Athenians, regardless of their political persuasion. »

The mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, even estimated on Skai TV that the uprising is led by a minority who “finds a pretext to wage an ideological struggle”. “Permanent residents want the subway. Not many of them in Exarchia Square are against it, barely a dozen and a large proportion of them are not even Greek.”He added, drawing fierce criticism from the opposition and district residents, the vast majority of whom are allergic to xenophobic remarks.

In Exarchia, revolt is part of the story. A few meters from the main square of the Athens Polytechnic, on November 14, 1973, students began an unprecedented uprising against the military junta (1967-1974). On November 17, the colonels sent the army to the faculty. The attack claimed at least 24 lives and injured dozens. Also in Exarchia, on December 6, 2008, a 15-year-old boy, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was shot dead by a police officer. For days, central Athens was full of youth speaking out against police violence and corruption. Here no banks, big brands, but small companies, self-governing and anarchist spaces.

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