Kerameikos at the mercy of nightlife thugs

It is almost 10 years since an archaeologist’s mattock chanced on a fragment of the Dimosio Sima (the public cemetery of Athens in antiquity) at 35 Salaminas Street in Kerameikos. This was where the city buried its notables and those who died defending their homeland. The discovery made news, as many believed at the time that the tomb of Pericles had been found. It was eventually shown to be a mass grave for Athenian soldiers who fell in the first Peloponnesian War. The find was significant enough to spark a series of announcements about the expropriation of property, excavations of other monuments and a general refurbishment of the area in view of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Now, instead of highlighted monuments and archaeological walks, the historic neighborhood of Kerameikos has been swallowed up by the nightlife industry. The effect on the quality of life for the few remaining local residents has been drastic, with brothels and nightclubs next door to semi-ruined buildings. That is not the worst. Local authorities look the other way while local residents, especially those who dare protest the unacceptable activities at night, are terrorized by the heavies and parking valets employed by nightclubs. Iera Odos, Pireos Avenue, and Salaminas, Kerameikou Agisliaou and Sfaktirias streets are gradually being taken over by nightclubs large and small, dance clubs, cafes and bars along the lines of what happened to Psyrri and then Thiseion, and with the same negative consequences on the local community. In Kerameikos, however, possibly due to many years of neglect of the area, matters are rapidly getting out of hand, with a rising incidence of attacks by paid heavies on locals who resist the changes. «People have ended up in the hospital because they dared to complain about the annoyances,» says Nikos Bouzianos, president of the Dimosio Sima cultural association, describing the mafia-style tactics of the nightlife thugs. «They think the area is uninhabited because of the ruined houses and general neglect and that they can do what they like: play deafening music; make noise laughing, shouting, fighting; and taking over roads, sidewalks, traffic islands and garages. «Local residents are like hostages, suffocating. They face psychological warfare and feel imprisoned in their own houses. If all that is refurbishment, then the much-touted upgrade of our neighborhood really has taken place.» The parking valets, who really are paid thugs, have been going to extremes for some time now, punishing anyone who refuses to obey their orders. «In order to get rid of residents’ cars in order to make more parking spaces for their clientele’s vehicles, the heavies smash up the cars to intimidate their owners. We leave our cars outside our homes at night and find them damaged in the morning. They use this tactic everywhere in the neighborhood. We are forced to park far away from where we live. What else can we do? We are unprotected,» says Haris Kleanthous.

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