Ένα άθρο της Νίκης Κιτσαντώνη για το ζήτημα της Κερατέας στους New York Times. Το θέμα προσεγγίζεται από όλες τις πλευρές (όπως οφείλει να κάνει ο δημοσιογράφος) και ακούγονται όλες οι φωνές. Έτσι αφήνει τον αναγνώστη να βγάλει τα συμπεράσματά του. Τώρα , πόσο αντικειμενικό συμπέρασμα μπορεί να βγάλει κάποιος, από τη στιγμή που έχει ως μία από τις πηγές τη συκοφάντη κ(;) Τζάκρη, το ξέρουμε πολύ καλά...
Για τα χθεσινά θα τα πούμε αργότερα...
By NIKI KITSANTONIS
Published: March 16, 2011
KERATEA, GREECE — For three months, the residents of this small town, 40 kilometers southeast of Athens, have been locked in a violent standoff with the police over the planned construction of a huge landfill that aims to solve the capital’s garbage problem.
The scenes broadcast on Greek television and on amateur videos on the Internet have been stark: middle-aged protesters hurling firebombs at the police, overturned cars in flames, Orthodox priests in black robes wailing amid clouds of tear gas.
Many residents and police officers have been hurt in the fighting. And though there have been dozens of arrests, the locals vow not to back down.
The Keratea campaign has been compared by some commentators to milder forms of civil disobedience appearing in a debt-stricken Greece, including a small movement of citizens who refuse to pay higher road toll charges and more for tickets for public transportation.
But fare-evasion is quite different than waging an armed standoff with the police, said Karolos Kavoulakos, a lecturer in social sciences at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
“This is about trash, and trash has been fueling violent protests for years,” he said. “The fact that this dispute coincides with the economic crisis makes it all the more explosive.“
Residents of Keratea say they will not become a dumping ground for the capital’s population, about four million, and argue that the chosen site — covering 50 hectares, or 125 acres, of hillside on the town’s outskirts — hides archaeological treasures.
But the government says the facility must go forward since the capital’s existing landfill is full.
The dispute originated last year when Greece faced millions of euros in fines after missing a July 2010 deadline for razing hundreds of illegal landfills around the country. In January, the European Union froze these fines on the condition that the government carried out a waste-management program that increased recycling and replaced the illegal dumps with “sanitary” landfills that met E.U. health and safety standards.
But no town in Greece wants a landfill in its backyard, as is clear from the reaction in other communities over the years. In 2009, residents of Grammatiko, a town east of Athens, scuffled with the police for weeks over a landfill that is now under construction as locals fight the project in court. In 2008, a 43-year-old woman died when riots broke out on Corfu over the planned construction of a landfill there; the project has been held up as locals mount court challenges. In the northern port of Thessaloniki, residents have opposed landfill projects for years.
In Keratea, however, protest has given way to systematic civil disobedience and violence involving a large section of the town, including the middle-aged and the elderly. The residents’ reactions appear to have taken the government by surprise and have provoked a political rift. The Citizen Protection Ministry says the heavy police presence in Keratea is a drain on resources, while the Interior Ministry insists that the authorities cannot back down.
Meanwhile, residents say they are under attack. “It’s simple — we are being threatened, so we defend ourselves,” said Sotiris Iatrou, a municipal councilor.
Asked about the involvement of anarchists in protests — frequently described in the Greek press and not denied on anarchist Web sites that proclaim support for Keratea residents — Mr. Iatrou responded, “We have solidarity from many sides.”
He also referred to backing from leftist political groups and said locals had been instructed how to make firebombs. “We were taught,” Mr. Iatrou said, smiling.
On most days, he joins fellow residents in a wooden hut set up alongside the road leading to the proposed site.
Locals guard a plastic barricade on the road, so construction workers cannot enter the site. About a kilometer away, some 400 police officers guard three excavators that have been vandalized since their transfer there in December.
On most nights, residents clash with police officers on the road and in the fields around the site. Residents also guard the barricade by day, playing resistance songs from the early 1970s, when the military ruled Greece, and drinking coffee around a wood-burning stove. The walls of the hut are covered with news articles about their efforts and children’s drawings, many depicting stickmen in opposite camps.
“We are at war and this is our garrison,” said Nikos Filippou, 64. “People are ready to die. It’s a matter of honor.”
Many hut regulars seem unlikely resistance fighters but defend locals wielding firebombs. “What can we do? No one listens to us,” said Eleni Giorda, 60. “We will use guns if we have to.”
Ioannis Andrianopoulos, 40, a shopkeeper, and his wife Sofia, 39, often leave their children, 8 and 10, at home for guard duty. Mr. Andrianopoulos said, “If they start building, we’ll set fire to the garbage trucks.”
His wife added, “We’re not crazy, and we’re not anarchists, but we are being provoked.”
Concerned about Keratea’s defiance, the government has appealed for discussions. But the locals will not talk until the police withdraw and the government will not talk until the residents’ dismantle their barricade.
“You can’t have dialogue in a hostile environment with firebombs’ being thrown,” said Theodora Tzakri, deputy interior minister, in a telephone interview. “We will not tolerate lawlessness.”
The government has appealed a decision by a local court suspending work on the proposed landfill until environmental and archaeological assessments are carried out; residents have appealed a ruling by a higher court allowing construction to proceed.
Ms. Tzakri insisted that the Keratea project was non-negotiable. “We won’t let Athens turn into Naples,” she said, referring to the Italian port that has been swamped in garbage in recent years as a result of strenuous opposition by residents to the creation of more landfills.
But she said the government was willing to discuss making the Keratea landfill environmentally friendly by setting up a recycling plant and composting unit on the site. “If the mayor can guarantee us that police cars won’t be firebombed, and workers’ lives won’t be threatened, we’ll sit down and talk,” Ms. Tzakri said.
Costas Levantis, the mayor of Lavreotiki, a municipality comprising Keratea and two other towns, said he could not guarantee anything. “People won’t back down,” he said. “If the machines start up, the whole town will come out and we’ll have casualties.”
The mayor said tensions between locals and police are at fever pitch. “There’s trouble nearly every night.”
And it is not only residents involved. Mr. Levantis said that last week 300 people from Exarchia, a central Athens hangout for anarchists who are often accused of violence,tried to torch the local police precinct.
Residents played down the role of anarchists, noting that 37 people arrested since December are locals. Five residents, including the former mayor, last month were charged with possession of explosives and other offenses and released pending trial. Keratea’s ex-mayor Stavros Iatrou (no relation to the municipal councilor) said he has been falsely accused of plotting to blow up a gas station next to the police precinct. He said two policemen submitted fake testimonies.
“Keratea used to be a conservative community where the policeman was the resident’s best friend,” the ex-mayor said. This changed when police were sent to the landfill site in December.
When officers entered the town in early February and searched houses, huge clashes erupted. Locals said a plainclothes officer threatened protesters with a gun.
“It was the final straw,” Mr. Iatrou said.
“Attacks on police officers in the area — with firebombs, stones and other objects — occur almost every day,” said Lt. Col. Thanassis Kokkalakis, spokesman for the Greek Police. He said that police were in the area “to protect the public interest” but that this role had been “misunderstood by some residents.”
The police say they are regularly pelted with firebombs and have been shot at by a sniper. They want to withdraw, said Christos Fotopoulos, who heads the police workers’ union. “Keratea doesn’t need policing,” he said. “It needs a political solution.”
The impasse will be difficult to break, said Mr. Kavoulakos, the university lecturer. The landfill is perceived not only as an environmental scourge but also as a threat to subsistence at a time of rising unemployment. “All people have is their property, and the landfill will devalue this,” he said. “They are desperate.”