Παρασκευή, 1 Δεκεμβρίου 2006

Prapopoulou Squat, Athens, Greece

Prapopoulou Squat is located in a suburb of Athens, Greece that is called Halandri. The building is an old upper class house which is surrounded by a big garden. This private property had been abandoned for 34 years, until 2 years ago a group of people from different ages and political references decided to transform it into a space of creativity and resistance.

The squat functions as an open political-cultural space and as a base for political action out of the squat and is not used for housing. It is based on anti-hierarchy, equality, self-management and non-commercial relationships and doesn’t cooperate with the state, political parties or any other authoritarian structure. The management is done only by open assemblies where anyone interested can participate. The decisions are taken collectively through consensus respecting the differences in political views. There is a borrowing library, organic cultivation where we often share some of the vegetables with the neighbors and encourage people to participate, free cinema each week, a group that promotes the use of bicycle and repairs old bicycles, free Spanish lessons, theatrical plays and more. We also installed a do-it-yourself wind turbine which finally didn't work out and we are now experimenting with photovoltaic technology considering autonomy in energy us an aspect of the struggle. Our events vary from theater for children, fiestas, concerts until conversations and projections about the conditions in prisons, the Zapatistas, the rebellion of Oaxaca, public spaces and development, green capitalism and army objection. At all our events we don't charge an entrance fee and the expenses are covered by voluntary contribution in a box of economic support, with the perspective to promote solidarity and avoid commercial and authoritarian relationships.

We emphasize on local action, having good relationships with the neighborhood and on interacting with society. The space is free for anyone who wants to use it if he, she respects the characteristics of the squat. We act against plans of the municipality about restriction of public spaces and development of areas of green. We have done several actions in the central square of our neighborhood, giving many texts under the sound of music and of announcements. We are also active in central political issues working frequently with other groups (mostly anarchist and autonomous), co-organizing demonstrations and events for solidarity to political prisoners, to squats under state or para-state repression, concerning environmental issues, against prisons, against elections and more.

But the natural functioning of the squat was violently blocked. After one year and a half of many events, actions and resisting, the state, its police, and their best friends the fascist groups, provoked a serious attack on the squat. Para-state nationalists broke into the squat in the night of the Greek independence-day anniversary in March of 2008, burned the wooden roof and the library and destroyed a big part of the house. Facing the sight of destruction and smelling the odour of repression, looking at each other we realized that the only sure thing was that they burned nothing that could not be restored. They failed to burn even to a minimum, all those important things that motivated us to keep on what we are doing, like the comradeship between all of us who participle in the squat and our determination to keep on with the struggle.

A march of 500 people was organized in the neighborhood of the house that shouted out that we are still here, and that the struggle goes on. From this point, we have put a lot of effort and time to reestablish the house, receiving a moving wave of solidarity from squatters, anarchists, leftists and neighbors that was expressed mainly in hands for work and money to buy materials. Seeking or accepting money and help from the municipality or other authoritarian institutions was excluded from the beginning. The weekly events had stopped for a while in order to concentrate on the works, but now we are starting to come back arranging new ones. Self-organization was always our way and continues to be, walking in solidarity step by step towards freedom and aiming for social liberation.

Few words about squats and autonomous spaces in Greece:

The first squats (with political characteristics) were established roughly 25 years ago, with influences from similar movements that took place all over Europe. In most cases squats in Greece have their ideological basis mostly in the political theory and actions of anarchism and autonomy, and less in the need of accommodation as basic motive for an occupation. However, lately, due to the rising number of immigrants many empty houses are used as shelter, but it still remains a phenomenon that does not gain much attention. During the last decades squats and autonomous spaces have been related, directly or indirectly, with revolutionary processes and fights. Today, there exist about 18 "well known" squats in 7 cities, the majority of which are gathered in the two bigest cities of Greece, Athens and Salonica.

Many of these squats cover also the housing needs of the people involved. There are autonomous spaces which are rented as well, and many occupied spaces inside the universities. All these procedures are spreading in the society the ideas of self-organization, solidarity, equality and resistance, are independent from political parties and try from their own existence to be small examples of the world we are fighting for. However, rarely squats or autonomous spaces in Greece have become widely acceptable from the local society and still with even more difficulty can they gain the support and the solidarity of wider parts of society, but nothing changes from one day to another.

In the sector of repression the situation is getting continuously more difficult with the promotion of new repressive laws that consider the occupation of public buildings with counterterrorist measures and use of special forces of police, and an increasing wave of fascist, para-state attacks. While a lot of squats are located in spaces of property of universities and are protected from police intervention (thanks to the "asylum"), they face the danger of declassification of academic space through a process of privatization for commercial exploitation.

Recent examples of squats that closed are the "Santa Barbara Squat" which was demolished, as well as the "Myllerou and Germanikou squat" which was terminated violently in the name of reconstruction and "development" of the region, and “I.K.A.” squat in Larisa that was also demolished. Under the threat of eviction is also the squat of factory Yfanet in Salonica, which is also the biggest occupation in Greece. Recent fascist attacks include the arson attempt of Villa Amalias squat (18 years of existence), attack with knives inside the anarchist space “Antipnoia” and many others arson attempts against political and syndicalism spaces that come to complete state repression, and create a condition of fear and insecurity.

Facing a situation that appears to bother so intensely those who are above, who try to extinguish any source of diversity and revolt against their institutions, solidarity is our weapon in our common fight for freedom and life.

THE LAND BELONGS TO THOSE WHO CULTIVATE IT, AND THE ABANDONED HOUSES TO THOSE WHO OCCUPY THEM


From the regions of northern Athens
For social liberation
Prapopoulou Squat
Athens, December 2008

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