The construction of the metro station on Exarchia square and the redevelopment of Strefi Hill are expected to start during the summer months, according to reports in the mainstream media, but also according to notifications by the Municipality of Athens to shops located in the square.
The government’s ultimatum is the final blow to the character of the historic neighborhood of Exarchia. The construction of a Metro stop on the square, the conversion of the Polytechnic school into a museum, the attempted eradication of the monument of Alexandros Grigoropoulos through the construction of luxury apartment buildings on Mesologgiou Street, the surrender of Strefi Hill to private interests (which includes the cementing of the park’s paths, cutting down trees, placing cameras, gates and security posts to control the entrance) are part of the overall designs for the gentrification of the area, the transformation of the neighborhood into a tourist destination, the development of control and repression.
The displacement of the most impoverished people is a consequence of gentrification, since finding housing is rendered impossible due to the increase in rents, spread of airbnb and the onslaught of investment companies. The process of gentrification is normality for the State and Capital, while it is a violent process of uprooting for those connected to the area as they are forced to leave it.
This particular Metro station is clearly not built “for the benefit of the citizens”, as the “independent” journalists strive to convince us. Exarchia is served by a large public transport network that covers the whole neighborhood, wherever someone is located. It is provocative for those who are responsible for the increasing cost of living to talk about “serving the citizens”. The capitalist parties who, by their neoliberal policies, are responsible for the price increases in electricity, rents, fuel and food. For the impoverishment and misery of even larger sections of society who are excluded from basic goods.
The Metro in the square will destroy one of the few public spaces in the centre of Athens and the only neighborhood square, by cutting down all the trees, placing escalators in the centre of the square, concrete ventilation boxes, building a desert land where nothing can grow on the 1.5 cm high slab. For the next ten years the square will be transformed into a vast construction site fenced off by metal sheets, noise and environmental pollution, with the prospect of being transformed from a meeting place, a place where resistance is grounded and socialized, to a simple passage that will serve the unimpeded flow of consumption and production.
This is why the crucial point of the neighborhoods defence at this juncture is the opposition to the construction of the Metro.
In conditions of a capitalist crisis and the pandemic, the state is developing a unified strategy of preventative counter-insurgency in the face of the risk of uncontrolled social explosions. It is in this context that the bill restricting demonstrations was passed, and that the criminal violence of the repressive forces is intensified, which culminated about a year ago with the brutal beating of a protestor in Nea Smyrni neighborhood.
It is in this same framework that squat evictions were ordered, that the university asylum was abolished and university police was established, grassroots trade unionism and strikes criminalized, activists arrested and persecuted. Part of this same strategy is the state designs to subjugate a neighborhood with a rich history of resistance, a neighborhood that is a global symbol for the struggles against power, exploitation and oppression. The state has evacuated squats of struggle, self-organised shelters for refugees and migrants, has drowned the whole neighborhood with chemicals, has placed political spaces of struggle under surveillance, has forcibly removed hundreds of refugees and migrants, women, men and children, from the area and imprisoned them in concentration camps.
Over time, however, this area has been stained with the blood of dozens of fighters who have experienced beatings, torture and lynchings by the forces of repression, culminating in the state murders of the rebellious youths M. Kalteza outside the Polytechnic University on 17/11/1985 and A. Grigoropoulos on 6/12/08 in Mesologiou Street.
Because what is really dangerous for the State are the values and the visions of class solidarity, militant resistance, spontaneity, social self-organization, anti-racism, coexistence and respect for different people regardless of gender or origin, the history of struggles and the dream of a world of equality and justice, now deeply rooted in a society in which the bosses have nothing to promise but poverty, repression and fascism. And it is these values, the proposals and the struggles they generate that the state wants to uproot from Exarchia, from the city centre and from every neighbourhood.
The enforced “development” of the city centre and its transformation into a tourist resort, a vast construction site of dirty money, that was called Grand Promenade. The change of use of buildings which until recently have been part of our social fabric and are now turned into museums, the sterilization of public universities, the destruction of public spaces and the destruction of green spaces, the increase in rents, the privatization of the Strefi Hill, the modification of the residential character of neighborhoods into commercial zones, all this means our dispossession of the spaces where social life develops. All this signals the intensification of the class attack by the State, Capital, real estate agencies, big developers and all kinds of rich landlords against poor and excluded people. It marks the transformation of the neighborhood into a tourist resort.
In this context, there have been attempts for years now to change the character of Exarchia, so that it ceases to play the important role it had in the wider social and class struggles and becomes an alternative entertainment centre, where even the history of the struggles itself becomes a product for consumption.
But no matter how much the state and capital strive to make Exarchia cease to be a field of political, social, class processes and impose “normality”, they will find thousands facing them who will defend it. Those of us who live, work, act and hang out in Exarchia, who have this neighborhood as a reference place, and who defend it as a neighborhood of the world “that houses many worlds”; a neighborhood where people of all genders, ages and origins can co-exist with respect. Where class solidarity can be a living reality. Where the questioning of state-capitalist brutality can flourish and forms of social self-organization can develop. Where the “different” and the “downtrodden” can find refuge. Where the history of struggle meets the struggles and resistances of today. Where the dream of a world of equality and justice can continue to take root in the city centre. Because the “normal” they want to impose is the normality of individualism, cannibalism, inequality, control and surveillance.
For all these reasons we call for a nationwide – international day of actions to defend the neighborhood of Exarchia
We invite you to organize diverse actions of solidarity and defense of the neighborhood of Exarchia. This struggle is a struggle for the defense of every neighborhood, every center of resistance, every place where rebellion is born and social self-organization and class solidarity develop against the mafia of State and Capital that crush our lives.
Coordination of Action for the defence of Exarchia