Violence spikes in Greek rebel town

As explosions boom, the town's loudspeakers blare: "Attention! Attention! We are under attack!" Air raid sirens wail through the streets, mingling with the frantic clanging of church bells. Clouds of tear gas waft between houses as helmeted riot police move in to push back the rebels.

This isn't a war zone, but a small town just outside Athens. And while its fight is about a garbage dump, it captures Greece's angry mood over its devastated economy.



As unemployment rises and austerity bites ever harder, tempers seem to fray faster than ever these days in Greece, with citizens of all stripes increasingly thumbing their noses at authority. Some refuse to pay increased highway tolls and public transport tickets, and there has been a rise in politicians being heckled — even assaulted — by constituents.



The anger is most palpable in Keratea, a town of about 15,000 people some 30 miles south of Athens that appears to have spun completely out of control. The state's attempt to start work on a planned garbage dump on a nearby hillside in December caused locals to set fire to construction vehicles and erect massive roadblocks on a highway that bypasses the town and runs to the capital.



It's a fight that has galvanized the town, from the mayor and the local priest to shopkeepers, farmers, schoolteachers and teenagers.



"We live and breathe to finish our jobs for the day, to go to the blockades, to participate, to sacrifice ourselves in preventing the landfill from happening," said Nikos Manolis, a local resident and bus owner.



Over the past four months, locals have developed increasingly inventive roadblocks to stop contractors from getting to the proposed dump site. They have parked trucks across the street and built piles of rubble and dirt. Apparently in it for the long haul, they have erected a wooden hut by the side of the road to serve as protest headquarters, complete with campaign posters, news clippings and children's drawings of the riots.



Their latest move was a nighttime expedition to dig a shoulder-high trench across both lanes of the highway. That was one step too far for authorities, who on Thursday sent in road crews — protected by police — to repair the damage.



Within hours the confrontation had degenerated. Masked youths hurled firebombs and rocks at riot police who responded with rubber baton rounds and repeated volleys of tear gas. A police helicopter circled overhead.



"The town is out of control. Business activity has stopped," said Yannis Adamis, a local resident and mechanical engineer. "The stores are closed. The sirens are blaring, the (church) bells are ringing, people are on the streets. This cannot continue."



In nearby streets, gaggles of teenage girls, cut lemons held to their noses in a futile effort to ward off tear gas, mingled with young men in balaclavas stocking up on rocks to throw at police. An elderly man wielding a shepherd's staff stormed past.



"We've learned at the age of 60 about Molotov cocktails," he thundered through his gas mask — an accessory sported by young and old alike. He would only give his first name, Panagiotis.



By the end of the night, more than 20 people — including three riot policemen — had been treated in the hospital. Just after midnight, a police officer's home in the area was attacked with firebombs, leaving three cars destroyed. The officer and his wife, who is also in the police force, and their four children were home at the time but unharmed, police said.



Greece is no stranger to riots, and demonstrations in Athens often end in scuffles with police. But the escalation of violence in Keratea is causing concern.



"The fact that we don't have victims yet is sheer luck," said Konstantinos Priftis, a local farmer and basketball coach. "Keratea is protecting its dignity, its history. ... We're not going to back down."



A sense of paranoia has also settled over the town. Rumors abound that undercover police are at work, walking around town and gathering information. Journalists, with their cameras and notebooks, immediately arouse suspicion. A cameraman for an international news agency was beaten by locals during the clashes on Thursday, and his camera equipment destroyed.



Residents argue the landfill will devalue the region and pose a health hazard. The town's mayor says local authorities have made a counterproposal for waste management, but that government officials refuse to listen.



"We have a very specific proposal. We accept to manage our proportion of the garbage in the manufacturing district with a small, modern factory that we want to build as a municipality," said mayor Kostas Levantis.



Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis condemned the violence on Thursday, and said the government had no intention of abandoning its plans to build the landfill, which it said would ease problems at Athens' single garbage dump.



"We are the only authority that has a comprehensive plans for (greater Athens') regional development ... we will not abandon the effort that has been made and is currently being made to build this new facility," he said.



But the residents are adamant.



"There's no way we will back down. If they don't accept that this project cannot happen, we will be here as long as it takes," said Levantis.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment