October 21 2013

“Square Camps:” The Squares that Cultivate Democracy

Historically, cities worldwide have proven to be the epicenter of social movements. The economic crisis imposed on Greece since 2008 and its failed management by the Troika and the IMF since 2010 have increased the general discontent and the number of strikes and manifestations in the Greek capital of Athens. According to statistics, in 2012 alone, 5,654 manifestations took place in cities all over Greece.

Manifestations in Athens with the background of Acropolis

However, next to the explosion of traditional strikes and manifestations that are used as a means of claiming social, political and urban rights, a new way of demonstration has emerged. Traditionally, central squares have born a significant political symbolism and have been used by citizens as places for expression of political discontent. More recently, representative city squares have also embedded the notion of a more permanent way of manifestation: that of camps and sit-ins. In many cases, the square camps have extended up to weeks or even months and have proven rather successful in exerting pressure towards authorities. These ‘square camps’ have exploded during the last several years throughout big metropolises of the world: Tahrir Square in Egypt, Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Taksim Square in Istanbul, and Zócalo Square in Mexico, to name a few.

Syntagma Square, Athens

In Athens, the occupation of Constitution Square (Syntagma Square) lasted from Μay to July of 2011. Outraged Athenians were organized via a social media call; and shortly after, a whole set of tents appeared in the most prominent square of the Greek Capital. Syntagma Square was transformed into a participative place of collaboration. The social network, during its ephemeral stay at the square, hosted public talks, open assemblies and votes, as well as collective writing of the decisions that were taken – transmitting, thus, a true feeling of democracy.

A sit-in manifestation in Square Syntagma in front of the Greek Parliament, Athens

What’s your opinion about this new type of protest taking place in central squares? Do you think that occupations of this kind truly reinvigorate the democratic function of public space?

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

Alkisti Eleni Victoratou

Alkisti Eleni Victoratou originates from Andros, a Cycladic island in Greece, and has lived and studied in Thessaloniki, England, Spain, and Athens-where she currently resides. She holds a B.A. in Economics from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and in Architecture from the National Technical University of Athens. Having this multicultural and interdisciplinary background gives her a better understanding of socially sensitive urban issues. Her dissertation thesis in Architecture dealt with the study and assessment of the legislation relating to Bioclimatic Architecture in the European Mediterranean countries of France, Spain, and Greece. Her interests also extend to sustainable technologies and parametric design, contributing to building design and urbanism. During her internship with The Grid, she will concentrate on the most important top-down and bottom-up urban transformations of Athens during their current Crisis. Her aspirations are to further her academic and professional specializations in urban issues and sustainable design.

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 21st, 2013 at 9:12 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Government/Politics, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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