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Berlin squat evicted

... | 28.11.2009 17:23 | Free Spaces | Repression | Social Struggles

Taken from mainstream press, full article on

One of the last remaining squats in Berlin was cleared on Tuesday. After a long-drawn out legal battle, 600 police descended on Brunnenstrasse 183 to evict the occupants. Berlin’s days as a squatter’s paradise and alternative mecca are long gone.

Berlin is a city that has marketed itself on its edgy alternative image, but in reality the German capital is increasingly becoming like many other European cities. One of the hallmarks of its vibrant alternative culture had been the city’s many former squats. But on Tuesday another one of these self-styled “house projects,” or experiments in alternative living, bit the dust.

On a mild November afternoon around 600 police officers descended upon the alternative house project at Brunnenstrasse 183, clearing out a total of 21 people from the dilapidated five-story house in central Berlin. The expected outbreak of violence by left-wing extremists didn’t happen. The closest it came to a showdown was when a few of the occupants climbed onto the roof and waved Anti-Fascist flags.

The police were taking no chances when they arrived at the scene at around 3 p.m. and immediately blocked off the busy street. After escorting the occupants out of the building they broke all the windows to stop people coming back to re-occupy the building in the mid-winter and placed floodlights in front of the house. Police President Dieter Glietsch defended the huge operation. Speaking on Berlin radio on Tuesday he said: “Our experience has taught us that we can avoid problems if we present a sufficiently strong force.”

The clearance on Tuesday was the finale of a star-crossed story that goes back decades. The house, in former East Berlin district of Mitte, had stood empty immediately after the fall of the Wall. Then a group of young people emulated many others and moved in to set up an experiment in communal living. They established a bar and the well-known Umsonstladen (”For Nothing Shop”), where locals could donate things they didn’t want and pick up stuff for free. The house was like so many other similar projects, part political, part utopian, part the convenience of free accommodation.