We have become accustomed to pop-up interventions in the public realm that reveal the countless innovative ways citizens (sometimes along with architects or urban planners) can transform open spaces, even for short periods of time. Nevertheless, not all "pop-up" interventions have the same effects. It's been five years since the economic crisis broke out in Greece - and Greeks are facing galloping growth of the extreme nationalistic party of Chrisi Avgi [Golden Dawn in Greek]. Just a few days ago, a member of Chrisi Avgi stabbed and killed Pavlos Fissas, a thirty-four young man of leftish political views. I don't intend to get into the role that Chrisi Avgi plays on the political scene of Greece. My purpose is to highlight the way Chrisi Avgi and its members interact with the public realm. Chrisi Avgi's presence and methods provoke for short periods of time, extreme conditions of seclusion that subsequently lead to the sudden death of the public space they occupy.
The present analysis is mainly inspired by an interview I watched a few months ago online. The renowned Greek journalist Dimitris Psarras was being interviewed for his new book "The Black Bible of Chrisi Avgi," which is an in-depth look at the political party. What really caught my attention during the interview was when Psarras referred to the charity profile Chrisi Avgi is trying to promote by providing food to people who currently suffer from famine in Greece. While the majority of the Greek population saw members of Chrisi Avgi in central areas of Athens distributing food to poor people on the news, what was not seen was how immigrants and gypsies were excluded from the process. Chrisi Avgi members were checking the I.D.s of people that were approaching food trucks and shouting aggressively: "This food is only for Greeks." What Psarras pointed out with this example was the formation of a "ghetto" on public space by Chrisi Avgi. However, this "temporary ghetto" is just one example of many situations of its kind led by the party.
Chrisi Avgi distributing food for Greeks-only
The mixing of people and uses of space is the mainstream urban planner's ideal for the creation of livable and vibrant open spaces. The open markets of Athens and other big Greek cities that pop-up only once per week and in various neighborhoods and fill our streets with colors and smells are regarded as significant meeting places. However, videos that I recently watched show members of Chrisi Avgi conducting unauthorized controls in open markets - visuals that remain alive in my memory. Chrisi Avgi intimidated immigrants, who were working alongside Greeks, by kicking their stands and violently pushing them away. Chrisi Avgi's "interventions" in open spaces are dividing people and setting conditions of terror.
Have you experienced similar conditions of seclusion in your city? We are really interested in hearing about your story. Please share in the comments section below.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.