Athens. Exarcheia. Some of the Enough collective travelled with the Cars of Hope collective to Athens on December 10. A report back.
Published by Enough 14. Written by Riot Turtle. Image above: Banner on the Notara 26 squat. December 2019.
I wasn’t in Athens for about 9 months and a lot has changed since then. In February and March we were working with the Cars of Hope collective to support migrants in the Azadi and babylon squats. On a mutual aid basis we discussed with people in both squats what they ned most and made a list. After that we bought a refrigerator, washing maschines and construction material to repair the showers in Azadi and Babylon. We also bought food and sanitary products for daily life. The cooperation worked well but in the months that followed many squats were evicted. Azadi and Babylon were evited on the 11th of April. That wasn’t really surprising, as the Greek state again and again sent riot cops into the Exarcheia neighboorhood. On one occassion, in February 2019, the cops shot live ammo in the air during such an operation. That was long before the Greek elections and the wannabe „left“ Syriza government was still in power.
The repression against anarchists, other activists and migrants was somehow hidden in the Syriza years. I also noticed that there was a lot of infighting going on between different groups and individuals in the movement.The conservative and in part extrem right Nea Demokratia party won the elections in July this year and since then things went fast. The new Greek government announced that they will ‘clean up’ the Exarcheia neighbourhood and that they will imprison migrants. Another thing the new government did, was the suspension of the so-called university asylum, which basically ment that cops were not allowed to enter universities. Now the state mercenaries are allowed to enter university buildings again. On the annual demonstration to commemorate the Polytechnic uprising in 1973, 50.000 people took the streets in Athens. In Exarcheia there was extreme police violence, something the cops repeated on December 6, the 11th anniversary of the police murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
Video from police crackdown in Exarcheia on November 17, 2019:
Videos from police violence in Exarcheia on December 6, 2019:
We arrived a few days after that and immediately noticed a mood of quiet before the storm. You could feel the tension. Since August the cops are occupying the neighbourhood. We avoided contact with two checkpoints of riot cops on Tositsa street and bypassed them. The cops were more or less loosely surrounding the Notara 26 migrant squat with checkpoints a couple of streets behind Notara street and the two checkpoints on Tositsa street.
I have been in the Notara 26 squat before, in January 2018, but this time the mood was tense. The war of nerves is costing a lot of energy, but the mood was also very determined. We agreed to come back the next days to make a list of needs. The next day we went to Notara 26 again and made a list with a few people that live in the migrant squat. Basically they needed food. We bought some rice, pasta, sugar, black tea and many other things and brought it to the squat.
I was in Exarcheia many times before but for the two other comrades I was travelling with, it was their first visit. As the mood was still like quiet before the storm, we decided to walk through the neighbourhood in the next days, so we would learn to know the area better in case things would escalate. It was as if we would already know that a Greek comrade would tell us a few days later that many comrades from northern Europe again and again get arrested. He told us that he thinks that one of the reasons is that some of them don’t know the area very well, or even not at all, and that makes them an easy target for the cops.
Most of the evenings we went to Kvox, the social center at Exarcheia square, a great place where there are many activivties like for instance a free and self-organized health center. But there is also a bar, some activities for children and info-events. You also van obtain a lot of interesting books at Kvox. The cops tried to get into Kvox two times earlier this year, but people managd to defend Kvox from the police attacks. The cops had nothing better to do than shooting teargas in the building with many people inside. In the week we were there, there were a lot of activities but we dind’t see any cops around Kvox. But of course there are again and again plain clothes cops in the area.
The migrant community of the Notara 26 squat organized a neighbourhood demo. We marched with around 150 people of all ages through Exarcheia. At Tositsa there was a short moment of tension as people got closer to the checkpoint of the riot cops, but the cops didn’t interfere and everything stayed ‘peaceful’. In a statement on the Notara 26 squat Facebook page Maria wrote: „On Friday, December 13th, the children of Notara squat, protested in their neighbourhood against state authoritarianism that is torturing people, turning Exarchia into a militarized zone and threatening to evict all squats. It was an action that refugees living in Notara, organized all though the week. They created the slogans, made their own banners and materials, prepared their children with the same care and caution they do every morning for school, and took the streets. One of the banners wrote, “It’s not difficult to fight with us. It’s impossible”.
And how right they are. No matter how many “horror warnings” of evictions may expire, it is impossible to end solidarity, it is impossible to end the struggle for life and dignity.“
A long discussion with an anarchist comrade was very inspiring. We talked about the situation in Athens and beyond. Most of the infights have stopped since the Greek state started their war against the squats and activists in general. There are more people joining assemblies again to discuss the current situation and to organize resistance against the attacks by the Greek state. The mobilizations are growing again, on the demo to commemorate Alexandros Grigoropoulos there were about 10.000 people, more than in the previous years. The police violence, not only against activists, but also randomly against neighbours who are not even part of an action, is causing more and more anger against the police fom all kinds of people. The spirit is determined.
The Greek government announced that they want to evict more than 20 squats before the new year starts. It seems like the Nea Demokratia government want to escalate things by all means necessary. But resistance is growing. Today the evicted Kouvelou squat in Marousi was re-occupied by 150 people.
To be continued…
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