After municipal bulldozers demolished one of the rare parks in the city of Athens, locals occupied the area, erected barricades, clashed with riot police forces and smashed two police stations.
On Monday 24th of January at 4 o’ clock in the morning bulldozers of the Municipality of Athens moved to destroy the park of Patision and Kyprou street in the greek capital’s most densely populated department, Kypseli. Cutting down more than 40 trees deemed by the Forestry Department as a natural heritage, the plans of the Athens Mayor is to build a 3 storage underground privately owned parking. The move immediately mobilized the neighborhood who was aware that cutting down the trees and turning a public space into private business is not only absurd but also against the Forestry decision no. OIK671 which had declared that “the change of use of the specific area is illegal as it is opposed by the 24th amendment of the constitution” (regarding free public spaces). In the past the neighbours had sought to support the Forestry Dept’s decision by taking the issue to the Committee of Architecture of the County of Attica, which had also declared any intervention in the park illegal.
The neighbours gathered to stop the destruction of one of the few green spaces in the capital. They attacked the bulldozers and other municipal vehicles and set a blockade around the park. Soon strong riot-police forces (MAT) arrived and engaged the locals with baton chares and tear gas. One elderly theater actress who has been living in the old Athens neighbourhood since the 60s declared “They came at night like the tanks. I am an old woman but I will clash with the MAT. The junta is back. Its now or never!”. The clashes lasted for several hours as the neighbours tried again and again to occupy the destroyed park.
At 17:00 the riot-police launched a grand scale attack in a rain of tear gas and “blast-sound” hand grenades. In the clashes that ensued, the locals piled the police forces with rocks and projectiles setting up barricades along the main Athens avenue of Patision. During the clashes the protesters attacked the police station of Kypseli, notorious for its rape cases against immigrant women last year, as well as the police station of Ayios Panteleimonas, which had been the site of torture of Afghan teenagers in 2005. Both police stations were smashed and many police vehicles destroyed. Finally the locals managed to re-occupy the park and formed an Assembly for its protection.
Ever since the park is run by the Assembly which holds daily gatherings for discussion, as well as feasts, open air movie projections with radical content and other happenings. Disturbed at the mobilization, the Mayor tried one again to break the blockade on Thursday morning when trucks arrived to load the murdered trees. When the locals tried to stop them, they were brutally attacked by neo-nazi thugs on the side ot the fascist city councilor Mr Lagos. The municipal trucks managed to load the trees but more locals soon arrived and reoccupied the park condemning the fascist attack.
On Monday 2nd of February during the Municipal Council’s discussion on the issue, the right wing Mayor and ex-minister of the current government tried to defend his decision while battles were raging just under the council’s windows between protesters and the riot-police. During the clashes two protesters were severely injured by “blast-sound” grenades and hospitalized with 2nd grade burns and fractures. The locals pledge to continue the occupation and their struggle against the so-called “Dracula of Athens” Mayor Kaklamanis and his tree-eating policies.