On the issue of occupying under a Police State…
Taken from « LIEBIG 14 EVICTED – Some notes on the eviction of a former squatted house from Berlin », also in 325, issue #9
his article comes from the Italian anarchist monthly “Invece” (“Instead of”) of March 2011. Some months after the eviction of the Liebig 14, the house is still empty and the attempts done by the landlord to restructure it have been combated by several acts of sabotage, keeping the house still a wreck.
“When everyday monotony gets shaken…” – that was the title of one of the leaflets which was distributed in Berlin right after the eviction of a former squatted house in the German capital, the Liebig 14, sited in the eastern district of Friedrichshain. And honestly speaking, one cannot really contradict the anonymous authors, since the first week of February offered some images and situations to Berlin’s inhabitants to reflect about. Thanks to their radicalism, they succeeded in breaking for some moments in time, the daily grind of a life based on the pursuit of profit and the respect for the rules dictated by a Capitalism system which renders us more and more indifferent to what happens around us. After all, we are constantly told that what remains important is to not get involved and to defend the pettiness of our miserable daily life. But let’s proceed with order.
Since a few years ago Berlin’s housing situation changed quite a lot. The city began to attract speculators of a different nature because of the low building costs – causing the creation of different temples of Capital : posh houses for those who can afford them, which is not the majority of the population of a city which sees an unemployment rate of 14%. At the same time, the rents – which have been historically low – began to rise together with the growing international prestige of the city, making it almost impossible to find a flat in the inner city, since it became trendy nowadays, inviting a younger, flexible ‘yuppie’ demographic which has fanciful artistic ambitions and is dedicated to the futile inhabitance of some neighborhoods which in the past have been characterised by a mix of second and third generation immigrants, comrades and proletarians. Such a mix gave rise also to some interesting conflicts during the past years. After all, the housing struggle has here a long tradition which knew its last big flame after the fall of the Berlin wall, when hundreds of houses have been squatted in the eastern part of the town. Due to a zero-tolerance policy called the “Berlin line” (eviction within 24 hours), the squatting movement has been divided between those who chose legalization and those who refused it – the last squatted house has been evicted back in 1997 (I am not talking here about apartments squatted “silently”, a phenomena which still persists). Any attempt to occupy gets brought down after a few hours from hundreds of robocops, generating frustration in the ones who, during the years, tried to open up new spaces taking them away from the logic of legality and speculation. A militant defence of the spaces became impracticable especially after the historical eviction of the houses in the Mainzerstrasse back in 1990, where hundreds fought 3000 cops with the sound of molotov cocktails for several days. Therefore, if one excludes a successful occupation in 2005 – which took place following another eviction and which was legalised a few years later – it becomes clear how, because of the difficulty of expropriating new space, the defence of the old ones gained a central and symbolical role within the framework of the city’s struggles.
Their defence inscribed themselves within a larger contest of struggle against speculation and urban development – the so-called “gentrification” – creating interconnections among different subjects in struggle and enlarging the view of many, who, as it often happens, did not want to narrow their view, or limit their prospective to the mere conservation of a miserable status-quo – in this case, the defence of a few self-organised structures, with all the limits of which we all know very well. Within recent times there has been a blossoming of self-organised initiatives, by comrades and also by tenants, which tried to become sand inside urban development’s cogs through different forms and moments of protest, which made it unavoidable for all the others to not take a stand on such developments: indeed, all the city is forced to talk about it. And this happened mostly due to the continuous work of anonymous lovers of direct action, who attacked construction sites of luxury apartments, offices of architects and speculators, symbols of Capital, government structures and inflamed the nights with hundreds of burning cars, either expensive ones or those belonging to different companies which exploit the situation. This has been a phenomenon which put the police and the city on their knees during the last couple of years. That is why the eviction of a simple self-organised house became the fuse which massively exploded the dissatisfaction felt by many. It was simply a catalyst, since the disappearing of a house surely did not trouble the dreams of all those who took the streets during those days.
As one can read in the different claims which appeared on the internet, one never forgets to underline how the actions have been undertaken within the larger context of the struggle against State and Capital, “against the theft of our lives, the attack against everything which does not allow us to fully enjoy them”, that is what “some friends of the uncontrolled extension of the fire” will write afterward. On the 10th of January 2011, the Liebig 14 receives an eviction note for the 2nd of February 2011. After years of trials and several procrastinations, it seems as if the landlord (who owns different houses in the neighborhood, like another houseproject, the Rigaer 94, which underwent several evictions during the previous years) managed to get what he wanted. Now the interesting novelty of this eviction has been the choice of not wanting to play on the terrain where the cops are stronger and have no problems – i.e. the one of the classic gathering in front of the house on the eviction’s morning. “To say what the enemy does not expect and to be where he does not wait for us. That is the new poetry” – this has been written a few years ago, and the actuality of such a consideration has been experimented again in Berlin. After all, one cannot really joke with 2500 cops and special forces units called especially for the occasion, as one learned in the past, and the confrontation on such a level can only be lost by us (or at least within the local context here). Therefore one opted for decentralised actions on the full city terrain, following the motto “every eviction will have its price”. And the price of this eviction has been over a million of euros, only for what concerns the property damages created by the enrages, as reported by an informal note of the police chief. A twitter-ticker was set up in order to coordinate the different actions, where one was able to send action reports in real time and to see where it “burns” and help is needed. Also this instrument proved to be quite important for coordinating movements of different nature. On the 29th of January one gets a first taste. A demonstration of over 4000 comrades moves from Kreuzberg towards Friedrichshain. Some scuffles accompany the march, which ends up spontaneously in front of the Liebig 14, where for half an hour the cops are taken by surprise and attacked on two fronts with cobblestones while barricades are erected. An interesting episode is the use of laser devices in order to confuse the police. The police appeared extremely unhappy by this move. On the day of the eviction, the classic prowling helicopter won’t fly over before night comes, exactly because of a possible use of laser against the pilot, say the police on some newspapers. During the days preceding the eviction there are several attacks undertaken against symbols of Capital. Among others, the bailiff’s office was attacked with stones and paint.
But the real showdown will come on the 2nd of February. The tactic of decentralizing works well. From the morning there are dozens of claimed actions. One of the positive things which strikes out is the variety of the targets chosen. One begins from those who make theirs the logic of the blockade and chose to hit the transport infrastructure – through the sabotage of several traffic lights in knotpoints of the city, the classical barricades in flames on high-traffic streets to the nowadays “normal” sabotage of railway lines (a tactical method which is well spread, for example, in order to block the transport of the Neo-Nazis whenever they have their demonstrations or against the nuclear-waste trains) by the arson of cables and signals. Also savage mobs which attack in large numbers banks or luxury apartments during the day, and also attack government building or those of political parties, or to even to destroy the tickets machines of the underground, supermarket outlets and much more, all in different parts of town. This is finished by those who will concentrate in Friedrichshain blocking the traffic and attacking the police and posh cars, giving life to spontaneous demonstrations of several hundred people. Different squatting actions will also contribute to keep the police busy on different fronts. Meanwhile the police will spend several hours before managing to evict Liebig 14, since the barricades are quite strong and some surprises will make the operation quite difficult for them. In the end, they will be forced to destroy some walls to gain access to the different floors. The actions will keep up during all afternoon with a demonstration in the district of Neukölln, attended by 800 people taking the streets of a district which struggles between the conservation of its popular character and the growing urban development.
At night, several thousands people meet up in Friedrichshain to smash the plan of the police: the latter, present in huge numbers, also with water cannons, will try to stop the demonstrators shortly after the march began. But the people are enraged and they take a different path from the official one, creating a shortcircuit among the cops. The police are attacked with stones and bottles, and also with fire extinguishers, some banks are demolished and the police attempt to bring the demonstration to a halt before it takes the streets of Kreuzberg will reveal itself as an own goal: hundreds of people will keep on moving, taking again an unexpected route and attacking some targets which until that very moment were known as “untouchable”, such as the O2-arena, a gigantic commercial concert room built two years ago and a symbol of urban development in the neighborhood, and also a police station is attacked, an important shopping mall and a couple of others. In a different part of the district, groups undertake their direct actions and are not intimidated by columns of dozens of riot vans who do not know where to head to, since chaos reigns all around. So much that meanwhile another group will decide to attack another police station in the district of Treptow and another one attacks a consumer street which is a temple of shopping in the neighborhood of Steglitz, in the south part of Berlin, just to contribute a bit more to the ongoing decentralization.
The actions endure through the following days and nights : even two days after, while a few hundred people gather again in Friedrichshain for a non-authorised rally – some fifty unpredictable individuals will go to one of Berlin’s main shopping streets to destroy some thirty luxury shops within a few minutes, leaving the police with open mouth and without any arrests in their pockets. People remain in movement. At the same time, dozens of German towns respond to the call (but also on an international level): from big cities like Hamburg to small unknown villages, everywhere there will be some people in solidarity who will take to the streets releasing their discontent and attacking police and symbols of Capital, no matter if with 20 or 500 people. In Hamburg, where the historical occupied self-organised building “Rote Flora” is at risk of an eviction again, during three days two spontaneous demonstrations consisting of several hundred take back the streets, succeeding in ravaging the posh city center, which remained “untouched” in almost twenty years and showing how if you want, you can. And this seems to be one of the legacies of these days. Showing how, if one trusts his/her own creativity, refuses to be fixed on dusty traditional plans, and remains in movement, decided and determined, even a well organised army such the thousands of German robocops can be taken by surprise, so that we – and only we – can decide how and where to give life to moments of subversive force. Now all this it is not a novelty, neither on a theoretical nor on a practical level, since it has been shown more than once during the history of uprisings, revolts, insurrections and scuffles undertaken by discontent people everywhere. But sometimes one needs to learn again to remember which ones might be our possibilities. In Germany as elsewhere.
– One of the many
For a full list of actions around the eviction and more check the website directactionde.ucrony.net