Thousands gathered in Athens last Monday (04.05), to protest the new anti-environmental bill, which the ruling right-wing New Democracy party made everything in its power to prepare and pass during the pandemic, with the hope of avoiding social turmoil. The protest took place on the first day of the dropping of the lockdown measures in Greece.
The bill, entitled “Modernized Environmental Legislation” aims to ease the issuing of permissions to private investors, allowing them to develop projects in protected areas, but also the places where local communities resist the destruction of their environment by capital. In this way, public scrutiny of proposed developments is further reduced by this new “fast-track” procedures.
People from over a hundred environmental organizations and movements began gathering from 5pm, and the majority of demonstrators remained until 9pm. The protesters did their best to maintain the basic precaution measures required by the conditions of the pandemic: as much as this is possible within such a large crowd. However, the Greek mainstream media, who are strongly supportive of the country’s current government, presented the exact opposite image: that of people irresponsibly gathering without physical distancing and masks. Furthermore, the media repeatedly attempted to repel people from supporting the protesters, by openly lying that the gathering was organized by SYRIZA. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
At the gathering, there was a tangible “social ecology” influenced presence, which provoked an open citizen assembly where people discussed the catastrophic bill and the tactics that can be developed by the movements to oppose it. Among the decisions taken was the establishment of a protest camp in front of the Greek Parliament.
During the late hours of the night, the camp was encircled by disproportionate riot and motorcycle police forces, and the protesters were taken to the police station where their personal data was collected. This, however, did not stop them, as they continue, to this moment, to spend their nights outside the parliament.
Despite the huge Monday demonstration, the continuing night camps, and a campaign signed by over 130 environmental organizations, the new bill was passed on the 05.05 by the Greek parliament. This, however, does not mean that all is lost. An increasing amount of Greek environmental movements have come to realize that the protection of nature is closely interlinked with social liberation. Thus slogans for direct popular participation are a regular occurrence at ecological demos. Networks are being formed by local initiatives and committees, and they coordinate in a horizontal manner to resist the environmental exploitation by the Capital-Nation-State complex. An increasing amount of people and movements are convinced, that the choice of our time is, as framed by Janet Biehl, Ecology or Catastrophe.
All photos by Aftoleksi