A -somewhat silent- tug of war between police forces and anarchist groups is taking place in Athens these past 3 weeks. Greek police decided to end a 22-year old occupation of a building in the quasi-central Plateia Victorias (Victoria's Square) area, at the corner of Heyden St. and Acharnon St., on December 20, 2012.
The building, nicknamed "Villa Amalias" and officialy owned by a state entity called "Organization for School Buildings" which builds schools throughout Greece, had become a bastion of anti-state groups throughout this period and a thorn in the eye of police forces and authorities. It has often been claimed that the site was being used not only for peaceful purposes (film screenings, lectures, etc.) but also for building molotov bombs and the like, which are habitually thrown during large protests and riots. In fact, police forces reported finding large quantities of empty beer bottles, sticks and gas masks during their raid on December 20. Sympathizers with the occupation claim that the building has provided support to neighborhood immigrants who are occasionally attacked by racist gangs and that the real reason for the raid is a collusion between police forces and racist gangs who want it out of the way.
|"Villa Amalias" entrance at Heyden St.|
The truth is that the area around Plateia Victorias has seen more than its "fair share" of violence in the past 10 years, becoming a hotspot of Athens' current ethnic troubles and illegal migration issues. Thefts and bullying by illegal immigrants and indiscriminate attacks by anti-immigrant groups have often taken place while immigrant supporters have also thrown in their weight in this "debate". This morning, a fairly small group of people re-occupied Villa Amalias, only for police forces to take it back hours later. Police presence in the wider area is still quite large.
|"Villa Amalias": Corner of Heyden St. and Acharnon St., Athens|
It may come as a surprise to you but I have family living in this area, whom I visit fairly often, and many Greek families still refuse to leave the area although there has been a Greek short of "white flight" to the suburbs. I can't say I am not "on alert" when I walk these streets but I wouldn't say I avoid them either. Maybe because I can manage to not look / walk like a potential victim (my age and physique still allows me to do so). Even so, I would say that most Athenians, besides the occasional outbursts of heated rhetoric, seem to take it all in stride, treating this whole situation like one more piece into the complicated urban mosaic of modern Athens...
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