The artisans of historic Athens fight for their stay on the street

The artisans of historic Athens fight for their stay on the street

Every tourist who walks between the Agora and the Acropolis of Athens stops at some point to appreciate the positions of the artisans that flank the Apostolu Pavlu street. Now, this community is threatened with eviction, because the authorities believe that it disfigures the historic center.

A little over a week ago the Municipal Police stood before them and forced them to pick up their stalls. Since then, agents take care that nobody sells anything and passers-by who walk by find their chairs in place, but empty.

At the end of this street, named after the Apostle Paul, preacher of Christianity in Roman Greece, artisans and vendors meet daily to protest and collect signatures against the eviction of a public space that has been his workshop and stall during this critical decade for the country.

"The street is our life and sustains our survival, we want to stay here with dignity," reads a banner.

The decision made by the City Council is proposed by the Greek Ministry of Culture, as confirmed by Efe Eleni Banu, director of the Department of Archeology of Athens.

"We want the archaeological pedestrian streets (Dionisiu Areopayitu, Apostolu Pavlu and Adrianú) to be free, and we have received protests from the neighbors against the vendors," he explains.

To remove them from the archaeological streets, the City Council proposes alternative places of sale. However, the president of the Association of Artisans and Street Vendors, Evi Litsa, maintains that they are not adequate.

These are the Avdi and Victoria squares, where the main public barely passes: tourists. The latter, known as an improvised camp for hundreds of refugees in 2015 and 2016, is located in a neighborhood that, despite being central, is very depressed.

Litsa assures Efe that despite their protests, the City Council has not taken any dialogue initiative.

"We do, many times, we have sent several written proposals such as paying a rent for the site we occupy in the street or making the stalls uniform for aesthetic reasons, and we never received an answer," says Litsa.

Nely Papajelá, deputy mayor responsible for managing public spaces, explains to Efe that they have proposed other areas more traveled for the transfer of artisans but that the Department of Archeology of Athens has rejected them "for being next to archaeological sites".

María, a waitress in a cafe on that street, appreciates the measure.

"I think you have to secure legal posts with precise rules at points where they do not cause problems for the stores, that they do not continue as they have until now, that we had to make them angry because they were placed in front of our terrace," he says.

Julio Picuasi, an Ecuadorian craftsman, has been in Greece for thirteen years, nine of whom have been in this street elaborating and selling typical products of their land.

"In part, the City Council is right to do a check but it has not consulted us either .. Those of us who are here do not have work, this place is for unemployed artisans and they have not consulted us about what we will do next, they do not think about us. ", regrets Picuasi.

A similar view has expressed to the media Petros Konstantinu, councilor in Athens for the Greek Anticapitalist Left Front (Antarsya), who argues that "the campaign to improve the historic and commercial center of Athens has become a lever for extermination of the poor of the city. "

The president of the vendors defends that not only work in the historical and commercial center, but that they protect and care for it, because crime in the area has been drastically reduced and collect both their waste and that passersby throw to the ground before the lack of litter bins

"When we were not here the artisans, this was very desolate and very few people passed by, I remember when we arrived the street was filled with colors", adds Picuasi.

This weekend, those who have walked through the center have returned to appreciate the positions of the artisans who, despite the police presence that warns them, have decided to occupy their chairs and open to the public to claim their right to work.

Ana Mora Segura and Yannis Chryssoverghis


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