Thursday, July 18 2024

Athens center plagued by marches, demos

Athens center plagued by marches, demos

In view of the disruption, the vandalism and the rubbish left behind even by the smallest of marches in the city center, Athens mayor Kostas Bakoyannis has urged the ministers of interior and citizens’ protection, Makis Voridis and Takis Theodorikakos, to grant the municipality of the capital the right to license any demonstration or open-air gathering.

“It is unthinkable to close streets in Athens with the permission of other bodies, while at the same time the Athens Municipality is surprised or at best remains a mere observer,” Bakoyannis said in a letter addressed to both ministers.

Strangely enough, the demonstrations that leave the biggest footprint in the city center are usually the smallest, when just a few dozen people gather.

“There are times when it seems like a few people are gathering who are simply aiming to cause damage. Within a few hours, a few people have daubed slogans on all the street planters along Stadiou Street,” says Deputy Mayor for Cleaning and Recycling Nikos Avramidis, who bemoaned that after each march or gathering the city’s image is disappointing.

“What remains is a dirty, vandalized city,” he said, noting slogans are painted on walls and that clearing the area of the march or gathering of fliers is a particularly daunting task. “As soon as the police give the OK that the streets are open, we send the sweepers, because without machines the work can’t be done,” he says.

Indicatively, in the last two years, the cleaning service of the Municipality of Athens has cleaned slogans off the street planters in Syntagma Square 97 times. The Monument to the Unknown Soldier has also been painted 15 times, and a few days ago the marble paving was spray-painted. The statue of Greek Revolution hero Theodoros Kolokotronis on Stadiou Street has had to be cleaned dozens of times, like other statues in the city.

The monument to the victims of the Marfin Bank tragedy has been vandalized more than 10 times since the day it was set up. “And it’s not just the protests, it’s the events. Every now and then the center is shut down, the metro in Syntagma is closed and we are left without customers,” says the owner of a shoe shop on Ermou Street.