ATHENS – Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyiannis said protesters trying to block construction of a new Metro stop in the anarchist stronghold of Exarchia Square, and opposing work to fix up nearby Strefi Hill are a minority opposed to anything.
He told SKAI TV “permanent residents want the Metro,” where work has begun under the square despite constant and sometimes violent protests, construction starting when most Greeks are away at their villages or islands for vacations.
“The point is for people to see things changing in their neighborhoods,” he said, denouncing protestors who have tried to prevent construction crews that are being guarded by squadrons of police.
“They see it as a political fetish. But that is not the case. The metro is for everyone, it has no left and right cars, not left and right trains,” Bakoyiannis said, referring to Conservative and Leftist ideologies.
“I find it hard to imagine how anyone can invest, even politically, in a city’s failure. But they feed on this; it is the logic of absolute nihilism,” he added, as he has been trying to beautify the city.
The protesters and critics said the Metro will make it easier for tourists to reach a Bohemian area of individual shops and known for its gritty, graffiti-covered buildings and home to artists and small publishing houses.
They said it will drive up rents and have landlords wanting to cash in selling their buildings to investors and upgrading them to bring in a richer crowd such as the adjacent Kolonaki, or create more short-term rentals.
One resident near Strefi Hill, who didn’t want to be identified, told The National Herald that while residents aren’t necessarily opposed to fixing up the area and a park and making it family-friendly – it’s a hangout for drug dealers and users – that they don’t want it done by a private company.
“We want to have a say in what it looks like and we don’t want cameras … it’s an excuse to control whoever passes in there,” he said, defending anarchists he said were keeping out drug dealers.
“It’s not for the people, it’s for the people who have the money and he goernment that makes games … investors will buy up all the buildings to end resistance. I don’t know how many people left who are heroic and breave enough to fight,” he said.