ATHENS – The new New Democracy government plans not only to go into the anarchist-dominated neighborhood of Exarchia after anarchists who use it as a base, but will follow up with an overhaul that will include removing rampant graffiti and sprucing it up.
Working with municipal officials in the capital, authorities are building the plan with an aim to turn it from a grungy – if, some say, interesting and exciting hodgepodge of lifestyles – into a model neighborhood.
That means pruning trees, cleaning it up, and adding a Metro station in the main Exarchia Square, an area of frequent pitched battles between riot cops and anarchists who frequently tangle, with the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA accused of condoning lawlessness that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he will end.
It also means clearing out squatters and anarchists who have taken over abandoned buildings with reports they are guarding them in anticipation of widespread police raids that could also turn the neighborhood into a battleground.
The details and timetable were discussed during a meeting between government officials and the new Athens mayor, Kostas Bakoyiannis – who is Mitsotakis' nephew. The plan is estimated to cost 10 million euros ($11.17 million) and take up to five years to complete, promising a complete metamorphosis of the neighborhood, said Kathimerini in a report.
A task force of about 50 people will take part and begin with initial efforts such as painting over graffiti, fixing street lights and sealing abandoned buildings to keep out squatters. There will also be artistic events co-organized by residents, the paper said, and Strefi Hill, now frequented by drug users and criminals, will have new walking paths and lighting installed and police patrols will be beefed up in the area.
Police have recently conducted a number of raids in Exarchia to round up drug dealers and unlawful migrants, to the criticism of Human Rights Watch and other opponents of the government who are afraid there's a bigger crackdown coming.