“You can put up your tent anywhere you like”
“But isn’t that illegal? What about the Police?”
“There are no police here , we burned down their building”
I laughed. Nervously. But the young Greek man opposite me wasn’t smiling
I’m in Ierrosis. A nondescript seaside village which has become the centre of a war zone. Think Skegness. But smaller. And sleepier and more boring.
Then imagine 200 riot police on the streets.
A Canadian mining company wants to dig for gold in the mountains here. Mountains mentioned by Herodotus.
Not far from the birthplace of Aristotle
One horrible day in 2012 a protest meeting in this sleepy village turned ugly. The Mayor – who was in favour of the mining project – was held prisoner in the town hall
Riot police were called in. Tear gas was thrown in the streets , into a school. The police station set alight.
In the following weeks the gold mining company’s buildings were burned to the ground. Their security guards doused in petrol and threatened with immolation.
The locals say the mine will destroy a precious ecosystem and threaten the tourist industry. And they fear the rivers will run dry.
The company says 1400 jobs will be created in a country where the recession has left its insidious mark.
Ierisoss used to be known as Acanthus. Xerxes passed through here. The citizens also took on the Spartans in another war.
They are not to be taken lightly
I went to the inaugural meeting of a women’s co-operative selling local goods like honey, olives and jam.
They told me the idea is to show that Halkidiki ‘s (this peninsular) wealth is above the land not below it
They said they want to show they stand alongside their men. Some of whom are due in court this week charged with offences designed to counter acts of terror
I wouldn’t mess with them