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Letter from Athens: The Coming Battle of Exarhia: Cops vs. Anarchists

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis, file)

The central Athens neighborhood of Exarhia – abutting the wealthy playground of Kolonaki which actually had a clothing store called Rich Bitch – has been a mostly No-Go zone even for riot police in a major precinct there because it's essentially been ruled by anarchists for years, with the notorious group Rouvikonas, said to have some 1000 members, in charge now.

Maybe not for long.

While the former ruling Looney Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis “Faux Che” Tsipras adored the Molotov Cocktail-tossing anarchists and wanted to be like them – although the Syrizans couldn't tear themselves away from the trappings of power, preferring comfort to clashing with cops – new Premier and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he's going to root them out and take back control of the neighborhood.

So the battle lines are being drawn and Exarhia could explode with the anarchists already taking up guard outside abandoned buildings they've taken over and now a dangerous new catalyst happening at just the wrong time.

A last-minute SYRIZA law rushed through a Parliament boycotted by all but one rival party before Tsipras was ousted in July 7 snap elections was tailor-made to get terrorist killers out of jail, for inmates who'd served at least one-third of sentences of 20 years or more.

Someone at SYRIZA should have done their homework because that opened the jail door for the release of Epaminondas Korkoneas, a special police guard who in December 2008 fired a warning shot at a group of kids in Exarchia, the bullet ricocheting and killing 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, setting off two violent weeks of rioting, arson, and pitched battles with police.

Between that and Mitsotakis saying he's going to sic the cops on them you know the anarchists are probably stoked up like the Lakota and Plains Indians charging down on Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

It didn’t take long. On the night of July 31, what newspapers in Greece called “hooded individuals” i.e., self-styled anarchists, hit the streets of Exarhia again – near a memorial for Grigoropoulos – to protest the unrighteous release of the smug, defiant Korkoneas.

But not to protest the SYRIZA law that will let out terrorist killers, likely including those from the disbanded Nov. 17 terror group that murdered 23 people, including five Americans attached to the U.S. Embassy over the years, unless New Democracy stops that.

Mitsotakis might look like a kid who’d hand over his milk money in a school playground but he’s already shown he’s got backbone, unlike the invertebrate Tsipras, who loves leftist and anarchist and terrorist symbols but only if he’s far away from the dirt of the streets.

There’s a new Sheriff in town and his name is Mitsotakis, and he’s putting armed cops on the Athens Metro, sending police out to help enforce the No Smoking law ignored for 11 years, and vowing to restore law-and-order to the nation’s capital where SYRIZA let Rouvikonas run amok at will to show his heart was with anarchy while his brain was with Capitalists he allegedly despised.

Exarhia is described as charming and quirky, and indeed has plenty of pockets where that’s true, but parts of it are a filthy, decrepit graffiti-covered cesspool of lawlessness, as eight Coast Guard officers found out earlier this year when they tried to arrest drug dealers who work with the anarchists and found themselves attacked by a heavily-armed gang.

There’s only one answer to this stuff and that’s to send in The Expendables, or the equivalent. Rouvikonas had struck the right chord in the beginning, going after bribe-demanding doctors, fighting the unfair foreclosures of people’s homes, and protesting what’s unfair before tying themselves to one of Nov. 17’s leaders, Dimitris Koufodinas.

They rampaged to demand he have more vacations from jail and want him out, losing any sense of sympathy they might have gotten from workers, pensioners, and the poor to whom they were temporary Robin Hoods before becoming common criminals too.

The protests against the release of Korkoneas, who at one point mocked Grigoropoulos and is a killer who should have stayed in jail for life, showed a likely harbinger of what’s to come for Exarhia, which ironically has become a favorite for tourists wanting to rent Airbnb apartments where the action is.

They might get too much of it.

So either Mitsotakis will stop this insanity or we might witness what my astute colleague Dino Sirigos indicated could be a playing out of the post-World War-II civil war’s last battle pitting Leftists against Loyalists and turn the neighborhood into an all-out battleground and the return of the 2008 riots all over again.

Exarhia was already a powder keg and we may soon see a replay of those battles almost 11 years ago that saw high school and college students join anarchists and Leftists and protesters against a previous New Democracy government, taking a vicious toll and breeding a new generation of terrorists with a higher level of fury.

Having witnessed parts of those riots, seeing police firing tear gas after being pelted with rocks and Molotov Cocktails, seeing buildings and cars burn, Exarhia in utter chaos and flames, the stakes are now higher because Mitsotakis can't back down and Rouvikonas won't.

So we're going to need more than a Sheriff now and one thing's for sure: he can't bring tanks.