Police and protesters against the creation of a metro station at Exarchia, in central Athens clashed on Monday.
Protesters say that the plan aims at changing the character of the historic Athens square, by the removal of dozens of trees.
In a statement mayor-elect Haris Doukas opposed the work being done at the Exarchia, saying that “every tree that is cut down deprives us of breath.”
He also expressed concern about the clashes that took place between locals protesting the tree-clearing work and riot police earlier in the day, saying that “an environmentally and people-friendly project like the metro should not become an object of conflict.”
Subway operator Elliniko Metro said on Tuesday that the trees being removed from Exarchia Square will be kept at the City of Athens’ plant nurseries until they can be replanted at a different location near the park where they are now.
It added that under the terms of the contract for the construction of the Line 4 extension of the Athens metro, the company has committed to planting at least 2,000 trees in the areas that will be affected by the work, including Exarchia.
The company also stressed the long-term environmental and social benefits of the project, saying that once the extension is completed, the metro will serve an additional 340,000 commuters a day, leading to 53,000 fewer cars circulating on the city’s streets.
Meanwhile, Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis took a swipe at the newly elected mayor of Athens over his stance on the issue.
“Mr Doukas’ statement is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation,” Marinakis told a regular press briefing in Athens.
“The work will continue as planned,” Marinakis stressed, dismissing concerns about the destruction of the park as a “sudden ache for the trees.”
Exarchia: The anarchist stronghold of Athens
Exarchia’s reputation precedes it. If you ask any Athenian about the neighborhood, located near the University of Athens, you are bound to get a strong reaction.
Often referred to as the anarchist neighborhood of Athens, there is much more to Exarchia than immediately meets the eye. Exarchia is an area with much to offer for misfits of all kinds; migrants, students, artists, and intellectuals call this colorful neighborhood home.
The area has a reputation as a leftist and anarchist stronghold. The Polytechnic uprising of 1973, when students barricaded themselves inside the university to protest the military junta dictatorship, occurred in the area.
Over the years, Exarchia has become home to all sorts of misfits in Athens. The area is home to many socialist, anti-fascist, and anarchist groups. It is also an area extremely popular with students, artists, and intellectuals of all kinds.
Exarcheia has also opened its arms to migrants displaced during the migrant crisis of the mid-2010s, providing housing for migrants of all kinds through squatting in abandoned buildings.