by Yiannis Baboulias. Yiannis Baboulias is a Greek investigative journalist. His work on politics, economics and the far-right has been featured in The New Statesman, Vice UK, Open Democracy, LRB and The Guardian.
There are few places in Europe where you can find riot police squads in full gear, permanently stationed around buzzing cafes and restaurants. In all honesty, I know just one: Exarchia, the boho, ever-rebellious neighbourhood of Athens.
Situated in the centre of the city, right next to the “historic triangle” of Syntagma parliament building, Monastiraki (under the Acropolis) and Omonoia Square, Exarchia is considerably unpolished compared to its neighbours to the south and east. But what it lacks in clean sidewalks, it makes up for in virility and spirit.
This is a neighbourhood of politics, resistance and communal spirit. The first recorded student riot took place here more than a century ago. It was here that students started occupying universities protesting the 1967 dictatorship, and it was here that on November 17, 1973, a tank sent by the military junta to evict the occupation, broke down the gates of the Polytechnic University, crushing students. This was where the military regime signed its own death warrant.