Madeline Blount
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Street Battles

October 12, 2009 @ 2:58 PM | Permalink

It's hard to over-state the importance of Phaneromeni Square for the Southern old town Nicosia.  In the same little cobblestoned space, one of the oldest churches in town stands with its Greek flags, attracting bearded bishops and pious grandmas by morning; and the surrounding walls are covered with anarchist graffiti, bringing out the Young and the Cypriot by night.  It's not unusual on Sundays to see a white wedding at the church and a spraycan session around the corner.  (consider: wandering bridesmaid as blank canvas for graf writers?)  In sum, it's a charged space.  Things happen here.

Over the weekend a street party (we go from white wedding to black-clad teenagers) on the square was broken up, violently, by the Cypriot police -- according to some friends who were there, pepper spray, broken bottles, the works.  A handful of young people, again including friends, were thrown in jail for 3 days, and a lawyer was not allowed inside to go speak with them.  Outraged, and seeing this as one instance among many between the Left and the Right here, a group of concerned activists held a meeting the next day at the square:

A wedding, of course, simultaneously, and the meeting was interrupted by the church's bells:

At this meeting, activists and others concerned tried to come up with an appropriate response.  Some mentioned the (much larger scale) protests in Athens last year, immediately connecting this Cypriot group to their Greek compatriots -- which was not a given.  The first thing that a lawyer there suggested was to make sure that all media (photos, video) from that event was posted online, to put pressure on the police.  Beyond this, the group's many suggestions were left open: a march to the police station?  Another street party, to proclaim the right to be in public space?  Because that is ultimately what the fight is about: who has the right to be where, when, and who has the power to define those terms.  

As some mentioned, this weekend's event is really about what old Nicosia should look like, and who will be the ones to determine this.  I've written on this blog about the abandoned buildings in this area and its crumbling streets -- some of which are quickly disappearing as developers move in.  Will this make it a more vibrant center of modern Cypriot cultural life? Or, as the street party-goers fear, does this mean the old town will soon look like Anywhere Else, a scrubbed-down sanitized version (get out of the streets, kids, and immigrants; people are trying to shop here) of a neighborhood that is right now so steeped in history, a messy but Real blend of traditional/alternative/immigrant life?  Observe, an ad for the Future of Cyprus in the old city:

Literally at odds with the written-on wall, no?

Time will tell.  Until then, dare I even mention that this is a stone's throw away from the border with the contested Turkish side?  So many territories.

The Communists meet outside the Church in Cyprus.




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Loved the ending on this. Related: I find that sometimes I remember a meeting or moment but can't recall what country it happened in. I also find that if I ...

Saleem Reshamwala on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-23

Thanks Saleem -- I've also experienced that tonguetied delirium from speaking multiple languages in the same conversation. . . interesting to think of meaning separate from words, does meaning require ...

Madeline Blount on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-26

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