Residents of one of the Greek capital’s famous protest neighborhoods, have been fighting for over a year against the construction of a new subway station in its main square. When workers started to cut down trees, residents were up in arms.
Mata Kastrisiou woke up in a panic at dawn on November 6. The 30-something had received a warning that workers and trucks were coming to cut down the 70 or so trees in Exarcheia Square, in the center of the Athens district known for its history of protest. She alerted her friends and rushed to the scene of the “environmental crime,” as the activists called it. “We shouted at the workers, asking them to show us the permits to cut down the trees. They didn’t have any!” the artist said.
Kastrisiou protested along with a thousand other residents that afternoon, facing a barrage of tear gas fired by police officers. “But we didn’t let ourselves be intimidated. We filed a complaint and Athens’ public prosecutor asked the company to stop work until the permits were presented. Despite that, the workers are still working!” she exclaimed.
For over a year, Kastrisiou has been one of the leading figures of the movement against the construction of a new subway station in Exarcheia Square. The Line 4 will serve 35 stations in the Attica region around the Greek capital. The Conservative government and Athens’ mayor are defending the project, which they claim will reduce traffic congestion in the city center. In Exarcheia, however, residents regret that other proposals to build the station somewhere other than in this square shaded by tall trees were not selected.
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Since August 2022, work at the construction site has been suspended. The area is surrounded by sheet metal and protected by around 50 police officers. Residents managed to successfully stall the project thanks to multiple demonstrations, a petition and an appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that they had not been consulted and informed by local authorities.
For Alexis Likoudis, who came to demonstrate on November 11, “the Conservative government is politically committed to silencing this protest neighborhood, which has always been at the forefront of student revolts and solidarity movements.” The battle to save the trees was mocked by Labour Minister Ádonis Georgiádis, who described it as “revolutionary gymnastics.”
Source: Le Monde