Meet Keratea: Greece's War Zone
One of the more interesting "war zones" that most have never heard of is not in North Africe, nor in the Middle East, but in Greece. Meet Keratea, a small city of 15,000 people located close to Athens, where after over 100 days of struggle between authorities and the broder population, the riot police has officially decided to abdicate the city to its fate in what is the first popular mini-revolution in the developed world. From the Independent: "As explosions boom, the town's loudspeakers blare: "Attention! Attention! We are under attack!" Air-raid sirens wail through the streets, mingling with the frantic clanging of church bells. Clouds of tear gas waft between houses as helmeted riot police move in to push back the rebels. This isn't a war zone, but a small town just outside Athens. And while its fight is about a rubbish dump, it captures Greece's angry mood over its devastated economy. As unemployment rises and austerity bites ever harder, tempers seem to fray faster in Greece, with citizens of all stripes thumbing their noses at authority. Some refuse to pay increased highway tolls and public transport tickets. There has been a rise in politicians being heckled and even assaulted. Yesterday, in Thessalonika, scores of activists were arrested after violent clashes with police." Meet the new and improved face of austerity: now in a small town in Greece, which is about to default all over again, and soon in many other places in the increasingly more insolvent European periphery.
The anger is most palpable in Keratea, a town of 15,000 people 30 miles south of Athens which appears to have spun out of control. The state's attempt to start work on a planned landfill site on a nearby hillside in December caused locals to set fire to construction vehicles and erect massive roadblocks on a road that bypasses the town and runs to the capital. It's a fight that has galvanised the town, from the mayor and the local priest to shopkeepers, farmers, schoolteachers and teenagers.
Within hours, the confrontation degenerated. Masked youths hurled firebombs and rocks at riot police, who responded with rubber batons and repeated volleys of tear gas. A police helicopter circled overhead. "The town is out of control. Business activity has stopped," said Yannis Adamis, a resident and mechanical engineer. "The stores are closed. The sirens are blaring, the [church] bells are ringing, people are on the streets. This cannot continue."
In nearby streets, gaggles of teenage girls, cut lemons held to their noses to ward off tear gas, mingled with young men in balaclavas, stocking up on rocks to throw at police. An elderly man wielding a shepherd's staff stormed past. "We've learned at the age of 60 about Molotov cocktails," he thundered through his gas mask – an accessory sported by young and old alike. He would give only his first name, Panagiotis. By the end of the night, more than 20 people – including three riot policemen – had been treated in hospital. Just after midnight, a police officer's home was attacked with firebombs, leaving three cars destroyed. The officer and his wife, who is also in the police force, and their four children were home at the time but unharmed, police said.
The city's fate had been to be relegated to an Athens trash dump expansion:
A government spokesman, Giorgos Petalotis, condemned the violence, and
said the government had no intention of abandoning its plans to build
the landfill site, which it said would ease problems at Athens's single
rubbish dump. "We are the only authority that has comprehensive plans
for [greater Athens] regional development. We will not abandon the
effort that has been made and is currently being made to build this new
facility," he said.
That fate is now over: As Occupied London reports, the city is now in the hand of the rioters.
As announced a few hours ago, the ministry of citizen protection announced its plan to withdraw all police forces from Ovriokastro and Keratea. It has also been decided that the construction machinery will be withdrawn from the area and that the ministry of environment will enter into negotiations with the municipality.
At 17.08 GMT+2, the largest part of the riot police forces had withdrawn from Keratea.
There is a feeling of victory running across the barricades of Keratea as the police buses leave. Is this a victory for the people of Keratea? Or a tactical move on the side of the government, ahead of the easter break?
So what happens next, aside from Athens being forced to breathe in its own squalor? As more see the example of the Keratea rebellion, ever more of the population first in Greece, and soon in other "oppressed" by austerity countries will resort to the same methods. What does this mean for economic growth in Europe. We will likely discover soon enough although not before the sellside advises us how this is all very bullish for long term growth. After all, think of all the Keynesian economic boosts and inventory destocking provided from constantly replacing Molotov cocktail ingredients.
In other words, get familiar with this imagery...