War on graffiti takes Sisyphean turn

One month after municipal authorities in Athens launched a campaign to remove the ubiquitous graffiti from the historic center, the initiative appears to have been sabotaged by vandals who have responded with a fresh spray-paint assault.

A few days after municipal crews scrubbed graffiti from the entrance to the Varvakeio meat market on central Athinas Street, unknown individuals vandalized the building’s rolling metal shutter with slogans. An then the graffiti was removed for a second time.

This urban battle has a political dimension. Critics say the cleanup campaign launched by Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis aims to deflect attention from more fundamental problems, such as growing poverty and unemployment. Others say his anti-graffiti drive smacks of right-wing authoritarianism.

“Kaminis, no wall will be left untouched,” said a newly sprayed slogan near Monastiraki Square, which was scrubbed away by municipal workers.

The mayor sought to fend off criticism with a message posted on his Facebook page Friday.

“Public space belongs to everyone and no one has the right to pollute it, to appropriate it, or to destroy it,” Kaminis said.

“I am sure that this view is shared by the majority of the city’s residents, which is why they have welcomed the campaign to prettify the facades on the center’s historic streets with enthusiasm,” he said.

Kaminis pledged he will do what it takes to clean up the capital.

“We will keep removing [such graffiti] until it becomes understood that this type of behavior is not tolerated by the majority.”

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