Monday, March 05, 2007
Ungdomshuset (Youth House) Eviction
Globalization cuts both ways, you know.
Just as the barriers and tariffs to commerce worldwide have fallen and corporations coalesced around new ways of making money, so have activists and progressives learned to communicate and join hands in resistance to rapacious world capital.
And to that end, highwayscribery has posted the above photos and decided to tell you something about the eviction of the “Ungdomshuset” (The Youth House) in Copenhagen over the weekend.
Mostly alone in coverage,Indymedia has conveyed what it can of the goings-on in Denmark. Here are some more pictures of the heavy-handed and unnecessary government action.
Unlike similar “squats” in Europe, where the young, working class or merely marginal, occupy unused real estate unlawfully, Ungdomshuset was actually the product of compromise between municipal authorities and radicals of another era.
It has stood as a democracy-based collective offering cultural and political activities for its residents and surrounding neighborhood since 1981.
Again, and we stress, they were supposed to be there. A recent Danish law privatizing all residences resulted in the government’s sale of The Youth House to, of all things, a fundamentalist Christian sect known as Faderhuset.
Take that you dirty squatters and go live in the house our economy has priced-out of your personal reality!
On Friday morning at 7 a.m., authorities sealed off the surrounding streets, shut down sympathetic Web sites [they’re getting smarter], and dispatched an “anti-terror” detail (complete with a helicopter landing on the roof) threw everybody out, and pretty much ruined the building to save it.
One thing highwayscribery abhors is the fast-spreading application of the term “terrorist” to anybody a presiding set of authorities disapproves of, what with all its connotations of bloodiness, murder of innocents, and such.
the scribe urges you to consider some of the above photos of the police, which Copenhagen’s citizens pay for with their hard-earned money, beating Copenhagen's citizens senseless, siccing dogs on them etc.
Hey scribe, how the heck do you know these crazy people aren’t terrorists?
Glad you asked.
By way of background the scribe will inform you that for a time in the mid-1990s, he lived in a unique neighborhood of Seville, Spain, known as the Alameda de Hercules.
La Alameda has a long history of Fascist resistance, communal cohesion, working class solidarity, and flamenco living. the scribe moved in after a newspaper he was editing on the other side of the Guadalquivir River, in the barrio of Triana, was closed down.
Unemployed and broke, the scribe spent many hours roaming the streets of the neighborhood, making himself useful to unofficial clusters of friends and more established collectives, in search of a hot meal and uncommon stories to write about.
He found more stories than meals, but was able to hang on, absorbing the radical culture of the barrio, falling in and out of love with the astounding flamenco girls come from the countryside to make it in Seville, and marveling at the dyed-in-the-wool, second-nature anarchism that was part of every inhabitant’s make-up.
On one such day, he read about a demonstration in the nearby Plaza Nueva protesting the lack of affordable housing in Seville. the scribe was already on arrears in his rent at calle Santa Ana # 10 and decided upon lending his voice to the cause.
The usual charming and shaggy youth were joined by prostitutes from the barrio, odds and ends from small leftist parties and held a great march through the old Roman streets of Seville, clowns and jugglers leading the way, iconoclasm on display for all the café diners and drinkers normally found during the 6 o’clock “merienda” hour.
Much to the scribe’s surprise, when the demonstration broke up, a goodly portion of the inspiring, intellectual, and idealistic youth, and their older allies, repaired to an abandoned schoolhouse in another barrio, San Bernardo, with the purpose of mounting a squat or “Okupa” very much along the lines of Ungdomshuset.
The kids, some without homes but studying at the free university, others simply committed to reforming an increasingly voracious real estate market through activism, swarmed the decrepit, abandoned building with naught but good intentions and an ancillary enthusiasm for partying.
That night, hammers pounded, music blared, wrenches twisted, stairways were cleared, bathrooms scoured, beer bottle caps twisted, caucuses crystalized, in a space long dead and even dangerous to the neighborhood around.
Soon enough a ridiculous detail of some 20 police cars arrived, but were turned away by the obstinacy and strategy of the “Okupa” group, and the presence of a courageous young lawyer, from the United Left coalition, Jose Ignacio Aguilar.
The squat was apparently set and the scribe’s heart was warmed at the camaraderie, fraternity and cooperation with which its members went about establishing their new home and community center.
Two days later, at the crack of dawn, the police returned and conducted an illegal eviction that included beatings, arrests, and humiliations. The practice of labeling all resisters “terrorists” was not yet a fashion because New York’s Twin Towers still stood, but it didn’t matter.
the scribe was broken-hearted that Spanish society would treat its brightest, tenderest hearts, it neediest souls, in this manner, but took away a few lessons and the phone number of a good housing lawyer from the experience. Shortly thereafter, he organized his own building into a renters strike that endured for quite some time, with the help of the same courageous young lawyer. It was all captured by the scribe in a lovely Spanish-language script, Un Mes Con Marifé (One Month With Marifé).
WE REPEAT: Terrorists are people who purposely target groups of innocent people, usually unconnected to the larger political “cause” for which they are fighting, with bombing, maiming and death.
The people of Ungdomshuset are not of this type.
If you agree, please right Overborgomeister Ritt Bjeregaard and tell him so at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The youth do represent a threat to the perceived order of things, an obstacle to the untrammeled march of speculative capital through the last redoubts of free activity in the industrial world.
highwayscribery invites you to read something about a much larger experiment in Copenhagen, not far from The Youth House, but slated for similar treatment known as Free Christiania.
It is a 33-year old squat of some 800 inhabitants, rife with art, music, and theater. Although a haven for alternative lifestyles, the autonomous community has more companies, per capita, than the rest of Denmark. Violence is nonexistent, it’s children roam free from the earliest of ages, and those shunned by modern Danish society find in Free Christiania, a place of accommodation.
Decisions are not done by votes, rather by consensus so that a workable solution acceptable to all parties is arrived at by its Citizens Council.
Why has Danish housing policy chosen to do away with Christiania?
Here’s an answer from Free Christiania itself: “Perhaps Christiania has done too well and thereby drawn unwanted attention to the problems of Danish society in general, where loneliness is common and social relations are increasingly on the decline [sound familiar?]. Or maybe the government fears that a simple lifestyle without stress and the long working hours needed to afford the consumer goods craved by the majority of the Danish population will catch on and spread. Or maybe it is just too tempting to sell the land, although a few hundred million Danish kroners are nothing in comparison with the value of Christiania to its inhabitants.”
The question, of course, is what value do the inhabitants of Christiania represent to those governing Denmark?
Not much, it would appear, and that’s the point, because that’s not democracy.