Pedestrians Fight Back in Athens, Greece

Pedestrians in Athens, Greece, tired of being abused on traffic-choked, car-dominated city streets, have begun taking matters into their own hands. The New York Times has a really interesting story today on a group that calls itself the Streetpanthers:

In the last year alone, the most innovative display of activism has sprung from the Streetpanthers, a band of thirtysomethings who under cover of night prowl the streets of Athens slapping the vehicles of egregious parking violators with Day-Glo orange stickers depicting a donkey in a car above the message, "I park wherever I want."

More than 250,000 stickers have been distributed nationwide since the group’s Web site began operation in July.

"We’re not subversive. We’re not confrontational. And we don’t want to cause damage to anyone’s property," he said, slapping a sticker on the windshield of a Jeep squeezed across a sidewalk on a narrow passageway called Arahovis Street.

The driver was nowhere to be seen. But a few feet ahead on Arahovis Street, they spotted a red Peugeot backing over a strip of ribbed paving that helps blind people with canes navigate sidewalks. The middle-aged motorist, who had just emerged from the car, was aghast when a pair of Streetpanthers swooped down, pasting a donkey sticker on his windshield.

"That same stunt cost my fiancée a broken rib cage over the summer," the blind Streetpanther, Stathis Zachariades, said to the driver, as a handful of bystanders cheered him on before asking the Streetpanthers for some of their stickers.

Across Europe, other activists have turned to imaginative, and legal, means to fight indifferent motorists.

Two years ago, a French group known as the Deflated discovered that letting the air out of tires was legal so long as no damage was caused. Other forms of protest have included mud smearing and car vaulting – which first took hold in Germany and eventually inspired Mr. Pouliasis to try to throw himself over the S.U.V.

The Streetpanthers remind me a little of Earth on Empty’s SUV summonses.  

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