Aris Kalantidis writes in Docville: Police violence in Exarchia

AAt the beginning of August, during the summer rastoni, three friends and I enjoy cool refreshments in our neighborhood, Exarchia. Behind us, the first sheets have already been erected to isolate the area for the construction of the metro station.

The owner of the corner bookshop is furious because he only learned that the square was closing when he saw the sheet metal a few meters in front of his shop. From the passageways, instruments of the class appear in a steady stream. Two two, then three three, ten ten. Before we know it we are in the middle of a battlefield with police and MAT surrounded. My eyes may be full of stars, but I didn’t count 100 odd people. A hundred organs of the order that came to impose by force the subway in Exarchion square. This has nothing to do with urban planning anymore, this is repression.

Aris Kalantidis

It is important to distinguish a little the issues that arise in Exarchia in relation to the metro, as we will find those who do not want a metro in Exarchia at all, those who want a metro but not in the square, those who want a metro in the square and those who do not want anything , but I will not deal with them. Some of the issues that arise are technical and some purely political.

In technical matters I will be very superficial because there are colleagues who are much more expert than me. There is first a debate on principle. According to a not inconsiderable number of people, Exarchia does not need a subway. In their opinion, Omonia, Syntagma and in the future Evelpidon are enough to serve the region. The opposite opinion says that an area with such a density needs its own subway, which will serve not only the square but also the very dense Neapolis.

A second technical issue is whether the station could be elsewhere, e.g. on Tositsa street. There is indeed a 2018 study that shows that such a thing is possible. However, a serious procedural issue arises here, as when this proposal is made, the tender for a station on the square has already been scheduled.

From previous experience we have from the Attiko Metro projects, we know that the square will remain a construction site for ten years, and indeed that the chances of it being green again after the completion of the works are minimal. It is enough to see the mess that most subway station entrances have to understand that there is no reason to trust the people in charge.

Of course, central to the whole discussion is the issue of land values. If the metro is a very important component of the so-called sustainable mobility, it does not make us forget that it has enormous effects on land values ​​and that its construction is directly linked to real estate interests. A metro stop in Exarchia will change land prices – that’s for sure – and this will bring huge changes to the area. We have every reason to believe that most will be disastrous, as they will lead to the removal of residents, commercial, cultural and social uses.

However, the main issue is primarily political. A government that considers that an urban project needs so much protection from the MAT to be realized shows that it not only does not understand the public nature of the project, but that its reflexes are violence and repression. There are mandatory consultation procedures that I believe have been followed (mandatory postings on the internet, dialogue with agencies, etc.). And of course there is a very serious question here: why didn’t the responsible bodies take a stand while there was still time and wait until it was too late for any amendment?

(© Tatiana Bolari/Eurokinissi)

But participation is not only the mandatory consultation with agencies. It is a system of open channels of communication with the residents, entrepreneurs and users of each neighborhood. This starts from timely information and can even end up in the joint search for intermediate or temporary solutions. And here the failure is total. Instead, violence and repression were chosen in a way that makes even me – who tends from my professional experience to believe that there is no other alternative than a station in the square – to doubt the intentions of the whole enterprise.

Interventions in the city are always a test of democracy. And once again the state shows its most anti-democratic face.

Aris Kalantidis is an urban planner. He lives in Athens and Berlin.

The article is in Greek

Tags: Aris Kalantidis writes Docville Police violence Exarchia

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