Daredevil: An active participant in Exarchia's new squatted park
Before December I wasn't directly involved. I followed what was happening and went to some protests but there was no strategy It was just solidarity for other people’s actions. There’s a lot of small anarchist groups that do a lot of actions and they created the conditions for December to happen, but what happened exceeded these groups. They made some sort of a network and this network was very helpful, at least in the beginning. They started by occupying the national university the economic school, the law school. They provided some sort of a basis for people to come and meet. The anarchists were more involved and they were more active before December. They also had street knowledge, they know about conflict and lighting. And the young kids, they picked it up very fast and in two days they were experts too but it was vital that this knowledge was present beforehand.
Two crucial events happened during this time: the death of the young kid and the attack on the lady; Kuneva. For Greek standards this was very brutal. It’s unheard of. A lot of people felt like they had their backs up against the wall. That's why we saw such a powerful eruption of outrage.
At some point we formed a group, but this group didn’t have an identity. It was part of our strategy not to have a name, not to have anyone speak for the group. I operated together with other people but I cannot speak for anyone else. What was important is this decision that we took not to have a name or identity.
Often the strategy of the State and the authorities, is to separate the different groups, to differentiate anarchists from students from workers, so they can play one group against the other. Or they can represent a particular group as, for example, artists, so everyone who is not an artist, it doesn’t involve them. But when we did things that got in the news they didn’t know how to label us-students, anarchists, youth. I think that this has worked very well.
Sometimes we organised things in cooperation with a group that already existed, a group that was more visible, more broad. For example here there is a group of residents. With the park we did all the work but they took all the credit. This was a civic group, more open, so they couldn’t be tagged as anarchist or whatever. This worked well for us. We did this a couple times, three times, with a big festival in Exarchia, for example.
We don’t want to be in touch with the media, so we get in touch with more mainstream groups, and they can get in touch with the media. For me this strategy has worked.What’s new is that now a lot of people are united and doing things, but this is still mostly around action. There are a lot of ideological differences but there is some sort of unity around the action. Like for example here at the park. I think this is a new development, since December. This is a small country and everyone knows one another. The different groups have some solidarity but also they have differences, they were fragmented. But now you have osmosis, people going from one group to another. It’s much broader.
In December we talked with some people about this strategy of autonomous zones and I think a lot of people liked the idea. There’s a lot of new squats, a new discussion about this situation. It also happened after the student riots of 1991: there were lots of occupations and now it’s happening again. But there are many different approaches. For example there was the occupation of the National Opera, that lasted for ten days. It was very big. And by Greek standards it was a very open squat. Lots of people came in who wouldn’t feel comfortable going to other political spaces. There were people from the whole political spectrum. Lots of discussions, it was quite interesting. At the beginning you saw they all came from different backgrounds but slowly a connection began to form.
The park is wonderful. It's very open, anyone can approach it, there’s no inside and outside. In the Opera there was the dynamic of one big group using the place and one smaller group that ran the place. There was a tension.
The starting point for our strategy was parenvoli, intervening and breaking the normal routine. We intervene in the daily How of things to interrupt it. The first intervention lasted one minute, then ten days, and now a more permanent interruption, with this park. These actions were done by different people, but what's important is that it goes from smaller to more permanent. It’s part of the strategy that the same group of people doesn’t do everything, so more people can participate and more people can relate. And the authorities never know who is doing it. One minute they thought it was fourteen-year-old kids and the next minute they thought it was veteran anarchists.
To occupy the park we worked with a civic group. They had been thinking about it for a long time, and for 6 months already they had been pressuring the municipality and the owner of the lot, which is the Union of Mechanical Engineering, to turn this place into a park. Some of our people who also participated in this civic group decided that it would be a good idea to make the park ourselves. In the beginning we didn’t have this whole thing in mind, we thought maybe we would just make some holes and put in some trees, and you can see now how it’s grown. But this is only because people put in so much work. They put in time, brought tools, and did so much. The park built itself. Some people provided the spark, and so many more people showed up and made it happen. And now it operates through its open assembly.
If someone comes along, uninitiated in this way of doing things, of organising assemblies, he would think it is completely chaotic - nothing could possibly‘come of this. But the truth is that from this seemingly chaotic environment a lot of l things can happen and they work really well. They're well organised, no mistakes, no big conflicts. This is a lesson for new people but also for us, to believe more and more in this way of organising and this way of acting. The idea that you don’t need some sort of leader to tell you where to go and what to do and who is responsible. You must prove this through action, not just say leadership is superfluous but prove it in action. And I think that on many occasions since December we have seen this.
Where do we go from now? There’s this dilemma: do we do things that bring in more people or do we do the things that we like and if other people like it too, so be it, something like that. But I’m not sure how to do it. We need some kind of combination. We should hope that the things we like and do well appeal to other people also. Because we don’t want to dilute our principles or our activities. There is this idea that we have to create the life that we want, parallel to a direct conflict with the authorities. We must build a new reality on the ground, of what we like and how we want to live. Like this park: we have to build it ourselves and organise it in some autonomous way, period.
In my view all the different aspects are related. Hitting the police, throwing molotov cocktails, these are different from creating a park and different people participate, but they fit well together. It’s a multifaceted struggle. The strategy of the opposite side tries to distinguish between everything, to turn you against the others. But the same people, different people, same time, different times, it doesn’t matter. We’re all together.
The big question we face now with the park, is that if you take the best scenario, that the municipality is willing to compromise with the owners and give them some money so that the park can legally remain, then the municipality takes ownership of the park. How can you guarantee the autonomy of the park so it doesn't just become another city park? This is uncharted territory I’m sure that in other times and in other countries there were similar experiences so we must look to history. We are formulating a new language to describe these experiments. Currently we lack the means to communicate what is happening. And there are new challenges. Hopefully we’ll learn from the past or create new ideas of how to do this, how to guarantee the autonomy of the park.
An interesting idea is what has happened in the West, the creation of social centres that provide social services. This is a huge project. It takes lots of money and infrastructure and expertise. But if we can take this on and make it run autonomously and keep it open to the people it’s going to be good. It's going to be really good.