ATHENS – There’s been no blow-out confrontation yet, but Greek police are slowly cleaning out the anarchist dominated neighborhood of Exarchia with sweeps rounding up drug dealers and users.
That’s part of Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ plan to end lawlessness in the city center where it had spiraled out of control during 4 ½ years of the reign of the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA ended when they were ousted by the Conservatives in July 7 snap elections.
This time four people were being questioned on drug-related charges following their arrest the day before in the continued police crackdown also aimed at finding unlawful migrants, with three of those apprehended without legal residence papers, authorities said.
The suspects were found with quantities of cannabis, bundled into small packages for sale, police said. A total of 486 grams of the drug were confiscated.
The notorious anarchist group Rouvikonas, which conducted unstoppable attacks on a number of targets when SYRIZA was in power, had been reportedly been guarding abandoned buildings it had taken over and warned of an all-out battle with police.
New Democracy plans not only to get rid of the anarchists who use Exarchia as a base, but will follow up with an overhaul that will include removing rampant graffiti and sprucing it up to make it more attractive and livable, with residents complaining of disorder and dirt.
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.
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 at some point.