COORDINATED INTER-SQUAT DIRECT ACTIONS
IN FRANCE SUPPORTING LES 400 COUVERTS
FEBRUARY 25TH 2005
GRENOBLE, DIJON, SAINT-ETIENNE, THONON-LES-BAINS, BESANÇON, PARIS, TOULOUSE, LYON, REIMS, MONTPELLIER, NANTES, ALES, STRASBOURG, LA ROCHELLE, RENNES, GENÈVE, NEULLY SUR MARNE AND OTHER CITIES …
OCCUPATIONS, BANNER-RELEASES, WALLINGS, RUBBLE DROPPING, DEMONSTRATIONS, OPENINGS, CONFRONTATIONS OF REPRESENTATIVES?
ACCOUNT OF THE COORDINATED ACTIONS PROTESTING AGAINST SQUAT EVICTIONS IN FRANCE AND SUPPORTING THE 400 COUVERTS ALLEY IN GRENOBLE.
1) INTRODUCTION TO THE FRENCH SQUAT MOVEMENT ; PRESENTATION OF THE 400 COUVERTS SQUAT AND THE GRENOBLE BACKGROUND
2) BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE VARIOUS ACTIONS AND LINKS FOR PICTURES
3) HOW TO SEND PROTEST LETTERS AND FAXES TO SUPPORT THE 400 COUVERTS AGAINST THE EVICTION…
1) INTRODUCTION TO THE SQUAT MOVEMENT ; PRESENTATION OF THE 400 COUVERTS SQUAT AND THE GRENOBLE BACKGROUND
On the 25th of february, everywhere in France, squatters have stood up both offensively and creatively to protest against evictions and to defend these spaces of living, creation, social experiments, thought, meetings and solidarity.
Particularly emphasised has been the 400 Couverts’ situation, threatened by Michel DESTOT’s socialiste (leftist) municipality. A large squat movement arises through these actions to denounce coercion on the part of both right-hand and left-hand city councils. Let’s also keep in mind that Grenoble has benefited over the last years from a very active and plural development of squats. It has also witnessed the disclosure of various struggles and types of direct and pro-anarchist actions facing local authorities: throughout the 2003-2004 winter, occupation of the Paul Mistral park, performed by the local people camping up the trees a couple of metres away from the city council which planned to raze it; action and criticism against the development of a Silicon Valley in Grenoble, including mass-publication of a counterfeit existing local newspaper advertising on new technologies ; occupation of Minatec’s construction site – Minatec being the next first European centre for the development of nano-technology; a lot of radical feminist activities, as well as the creation and publication of independent media.
THE 400 COUVERTS: WHAT? WHO?
Little street located in Grenoble city centre, squatted for over 3 years, the 400 Couverts houses 20 people permanently, a public space dedicated to free activities (debates, gigs, projections, meeting space used by various groups?), including a free library, a garden, a home-made outdoor baking-oven, as well as more or less successful experiments (vegetal roof, vegetable plot, compost, organic pharmacy, free hardware base?). All these spaces and activities were set up independently and autonomously, without any institutional incentives and hardly any money, on a non-trading basis.
Grenoble local council, owner of the place, intends to evict and raze the 400 Couverts alley in order to set up an important housing project: the erection of 12 social-housing parts. Evicting people who managed to organize their spaces of living independently in order to furnish accommodation to more or less the same number with standardized housing is part of a bureaucratic scheme aiming for social control reinforcement over dwellers. It is part of a systematic annihilation of spaces of invention and criticism. In a city liable to spend millions on the building of a stadium or on an upper-class art centre, it seems that squatters are not preventing the councils to enforce their social projects. We are fighting for this experiment to go on.
ON THE SQUAT MOVEMENT IN FRANCE
For a couple of years, France has seen the development of many independent political squats, where are being lead alternative collective life experiments and public political activities of various sorts.
These spots usually host anti-capitalist and pro-anarchist actions and events, “free-zones” where goods and material are exchanged, squatted vegetable plots, cyber cafes. These are places where alternative hardware and software is developed, information, books and brochures printed and brought out within “Infokiosques”, where people work on counter-medicine, recycling, bicycles, mechanics, wood and metal craft, serigraphy, home-made building, sunflower-oil recycling for vehicles, organic seeds exchange, single-sex groups for feminist, queer or transgender reflection, street meals, free restaurants, bars, concerts, film-projections and drama.
They differ from a type of “artistic squatting” (to be found particularly in Paris) in the sense that they do not cooperate with local authorities and explicitly question private property, State organization, profit and power relations, and develop autonomous zones linked to various other social struggles.
This is only a partial and rough account of a generally complex set up, and it wouldn’t be right to try and level too much these rather multiple experiences and activities. Especially as the collectives mentioned do not necessarily see themselves as part of a greater process.
Nonetheless, a couple of inter-squat gatherings have been successfully organized over the past 3 years. Local inter-squat associations are rather common and exchanges between squats all over the country are brought about through specific actions and projects, friendships of course, and networks involving squatters such as Sans-Titre ( http://www.under.ch/SansTitre), the Infokiosque network ( http://infokiosques.net), Indymedia, resistance festivals, the anti-prison movement, or nomadic projects such as La Caravane Permanente ( http://cp.squat.net).
Despite growing repressive attempts on the part of French authorities, specifically directed against political squats – the government has attempted to condemn the « sans droit ni titre » (rightless and nameless) occupation 2 years ago through enforcement of “National Security” laws – it is still possible to squat without risking imprisonment, fortunately.
Though courts nearly always decide in favour of landlords and order eviction, squatters usually benefit from a few months (or a few years) extension when they fight through legal procedures, and also on the public and political side. Thus, the number of evictions is rising, but so is the number of re-openings. Over the last few years, a couple of squats have even managed to cut short eviction threats and to achieve a kind of stability thanks to a favourable power struggle with authorities, and sometimes through negotiating with landlords (which is often subject to debate?). It is the case for L’espace autogéré des Tanneries in Dijon, Le Clandé in Toulouse, for the 102 in Grenoble, that have all been there for at least 7 years. On the other hand, some of the most active squats, such as Les 400 Couverts or l’Ekluserie in Grenoble, Les Diables bleux in Nice are all under eviction threat on the short-term, or have just become so. While in Paris, the socialist councils do not even bother using legal proceedings any more to enforce eviction.
It is thus essential for the movement to build up in time an advantageous power struggle on a national basis, and, on the other hand to work out alliances and cooperation outside of the squat movement.
WHY THIS COORDINATED ACTION ON THE 25TH OF FEBRUARY?
Denouncing the action of the Parti Socialiste, in place in Grenoble and elsewhere, we meant to underline how much institutional urban and housing policies constantly endanger these spaces.
Denouncing the Parti Socialiste’s responsibility allowed us to remind that, next to common right-wing repressive policies, “good-hearted social-democrats” are the ones who call the police to evict illegal immigrants and refugees on hunger-strike from their headquarters in Paris. That its strategy regarding squats is often to legalize artistic settlements for added value while, on the other side, they evict all other sorts of squats with extreme violence. It fights the poors rather than poverty. It cleans up cities rather than giving a chance to real attempts for political change.
For Grenoble as well as for other places, we protest against a repressive strategy concealed by “social” plans and urban policies, carried out by all parties, from right to left.
Grenoble squatters and friends.
2)ACTION REPORTS FROM 15 TOWNS?
Pictures for Grenoble:
24/02/2005. During the night, a group of individuals has sabotaged the parti socialiste headquarters main door with neoprene glue, toothpicks and paint-bombs?. Only way to get back in: wrecking bar. Sounds familiar? The PS evicts, lets evict the PS. They have been generously conceded an explanatory graffiti. The PS headquarters are located on rue Mallifaud, 46, first floor. Have fun!
25/02/05. Around 14:30, approximately 50 people have dropped rubble in front of the city hall. 2 signs have been put up the lump, saying: ” What the council makes of our houses” and “What should be down with places of power”. 2 banners have also been hung up on a bridge across the boulevard, a few metres from the city hall, saying: “we’ve had enough, we’re getting organized: Autonomy! Squats! Things for free!, and ” Who decides what for whom? What decides whom for what?” As demonstrators were leaving, they were violently disbanded by a surprise police drive. About 10 people were arbitrarily taken, at least one of them with physical violence. They were released after identity checking, needed for systematic filing of individuals. 30 000 leaflets were spread out in the city, reminding the critical situation of squats such as Les 400 Couverts, La Mordue, Le Resistor, La Mèche and many other Grenoble squats.
More info: http://grenoble.indymedia.org and http://grenoble.squat.net
February 25th, the 12eme arrondissement city hall was covered by piles of rubble (as well as a large town planning model worth 10 000 euros) as a protest against the squats eviction policy carried out by the left in Paris and in many other cities.
On the 18th, the 12ème arrondissement city council, after a violent eviction of students who had been occupying for a week an empty building 1, cite Debergue, to turn it into a house and centre of activity, proceeded to destroy the stairs and inside of the building to prevent any re-occupation. Demonstrations and actions to prevent the authorities from walling the place had followed. A counterfeit council’s poster with the stamp of the city had also been glued around the 12eme arrondissement. Is the Left talking “social policy”, as it evicts homeless students without discussion in the middle of winter, and this illegally? Does the “green spaces” policy boasted on by the council imply razing empty buildings to plant trees, and eviction of the homeless?
In Dijon, a giant banner was spread 25metres from the ground on the socialiste Dijon city hall roof, from a scaffold: “In Grenoble as elsewhere, the PS evicts people. Let’s protect the autonomous squat Les 400 Couverts.”About 30 people stood below in solidarity, distributing leaflets inside the offices to municipal workers, enjoining the sending of faxes to Grenoble city council and confronting the representatives (the mayor and its court who had stepped out, angered to be put face to face with their contradictions?). After 2 hours exhibition on this busy Liberation street, and a thousand leaflets handed out (see below), the scaffold’s occupiers came down with the banner. Other participants have formed a human chain to block the cops about to control/arrest the climbers. The Dijon heads had agreed to contact Grenoble once the people came down, what was done. The press release stating what was in the leaflet was also sent to Grenoble from the city hall. A phone meeting with Destot, mayor of Grenoble, was also promised to the collective.
In Dijon, Les Tanneries, autonomous squat used for housing and activities since1998, have survived thanks to a strong period of struggle and actions after which the council had been compelled to sign a convention with its occupiers. It seemed all the more important to demonstrate Les 400 Couverts solidarity, showing that only fighting pays.
Full press release:
Some individuals have entered the PS council and tried to talk to the mayor about Les 400 Couverts, about the security policy enforced on the city, the destruction of many attempts to create independent zones (systematic squat eviction). They have been stopped before reaching the mayor’s office and, after fierce discussions with the representatives, came down to hand out leaflets, with banners and flags. Besançon’s mayor agreed to send a letter to Grenoble’s mayor about the protest action and asking for informations.
FROM SOMEWHERE IN PROVENCE
Grenoble city hall offices have been mail blocked.
During the night of the 24th of February 2005, a group of individuals inflicted the St Etienne PS a sample of what it does to many people. On the morning, the members of the PS offices found their place (symbolically) walled, as well as a demolition notice. In the afternoon, they have received a eviction notice and some explanatory phone calls from the Comity for Eviction, Destruction and Reenchantment of Occupied Spaces by Social Parasites and Other Plagues.
Let’s remind that IZMIR, a space of activity (computer resources, restaurants, debates, infokiosques?) and housing, which has been open for a few years, is also threatened of eviction by the St Etienne council.
More info: http://lenumerozero.lautre.net
Individuals have dropped compost and garbage on the PS office’s doorstep. The socialiste council claims that evictions are being made “for the squatters’s own sake”, putting forward the argument of health measure, and obviously without trial nor deferment. In Nantes, the Baragouinage, housing and feminist activity squat, opened a few months ago, and that an old squat, L’Usure, is under threat of eviction.
THONON LES BAINS
Some people have gathered in Thonon-les-Bains, in Haute-Savoie, to protest against eviction threats concerning Les 400 Couverts and inform about their situation. A leaflet has been given out on an information press table. It reminded how Grenoble city council is as bad as its right-wing colleagues in terms of urban projects (empty buildings, “beautiful” architectural projects meant for an wealthy elite, and cultural development directed towards this same elite, and last but not least, squat evictions?).
In Thonon, Le Train-train is a squatted building used for housing and activity, including concerts, debates, an infokiosque. The SNCF (national railway company), landlord, has demanded eviction.
About 30 people have invaded the “Maison de la Démocratie”, owned by the city council, in the city centre, and hung up a banner against evictions. When the simple request was made to send faxes to Grenoble, the answers were: “This is impossible. If everyone starts to send faxes and things, it’s anarchy!”, or: “This is private stuff. This is not public, it’s only a city hall office.” The occupation thus lasted till the civil servants and representatives working for this administration’s media-puppet, the Maison de la Démocratie, finally accepted to send the fax. Meanwhile, employees were ready to use violence to prevent people from entering their offices (door closed on hand). Part of the municipal staff eventually turned up and called Grenoble. One participant then made the Grenoble cabinet secretary read out the fax, making sure the latter had really been sent.
Meanwhile, 3 flats, left empty by the landlords, were opened by an other collective to the benefit of homeless families. Self-attribution has been favoured to endless waiting lists?.The Maison de la Démocratie occupiers joined the place, from where a group of policemen, who had come to evict, left to the sneers of the local residents, after having been stuck in a lift for an hour.
The month before, in Montpellier, The Great Revolutionary Anarchist Refuge Unanimously Opened (French is grraou: ) was unanimously opened. They have already organised a street meal and took part to a week devoted to local initiatives against security policies.
Posters and leaflets denouncing evictions and supporting Les 400 Couverts and other squats were hung and given out in the area where former La Grosse Caillasse was evicted in 2002.
After a visit to the PS office, which was covered by posters supporting Les 400 Couverts and other Lyon squats, a group consisting of people dressed up as cooks settled Place des Terreaux around a large pan where a “rose soup” was being cooked (the PS symbol is a pink rose). Leaflets were handed out, denouncing socialiste policies, “managers of poverty” and informing about Les 400 Couverts and other threatened squats in and around Lyon, such as the concert hall and activity centre GROUNDZERO. They remind that, out of the 60 evicted squats over the last years, 80% are still walled and unused. The gathering was disbanded by the police who proceeded to id controls. Information will also be given during the ecologist fair in Lyon, Primevêre.
NEUILLY SUR MARNE
Some individuals from Neuilly sur Marne made up their minds during a feast to support the 400 Couverts squat. One more drink, and the plates were soon used to write clever messages such as “NO”, “You are the baddies” and “Long live squats” (couverts means knives-and-forks in French). Then, stumbling a little, they reached the PS office of Neuilly. Though they found the place closed, they nonetheless decided to decorate the door, sticking the plates to it, and leaving a flier. Across the street, they visited the town council in a similar way. Eventually, the main square got the leftovers: plates, forks, spoons, knives and glasses?
Neuilly supports the 400!
During the afternoon, supporters have handed out leaflets in the city centre, to inform the inhabitants on the French housing problem (can’t write “crisis” any more, it’s been going on for so long), especially on the Grenoble policy towards autonomous spaces. They organized an infokiosque (free information and documents) on the Cours Julien. Many people came for non-mercantile discussion on squats -surprising to see how people were impressed with the brochures. Info on the Marseille situation was greeted with much enthusiasm and encouragement to squat!! In the evening, a special program on Radio Galère was broadcasted. Let’s share, expand our fights?
On the 25th of February, as the French Chancellor of the Exchequer was resigning after the news spread about his government-paid 800 sqm flat in the centre of Paris, some militants claimed the opening of a 800sqm squat in La Rochelle. Located 45 Quai Maubec, in an old cooking school, on 3 floors, they are planning to turn it into an autonomous, cultural and festive space. One floor dedicated for people living there, another for local associations, workshops?.It includes a public kitchen, a library, a “free-zone”, and as many things you might want to do there. The PS council wants them out, they’re calling for help?
FINALLY, AN UNFORTUNATE EVENT THAT HAPPENED THE NIGHT BEFORE
Thursday 24th, the police, boots and helmets on, has put an end to the occupation of the former DDE administrative buildings renamed l’Ekluserie, opened 4 years ago and used for many public activities (story-telling, vegetable plot, computer resources centre, debates, gigs and projections?). Coincidentally, bulldozers started their meal. Dwellers were violently pulled from bed by the police. 5 minutes to gather a few things and the razing had started. After a mess-up with the local TV, the 20 people present started to block the boulevard along the docks. Quickly, the riot police and the vans came up. Tension sprung, people got taken. 3 of them were released, the 4th detained because he carried a knife. There has been a gathering in front of the city hall, usually very posh and clean, the building was occupied a few minutes for protest?and the villains gazed a few people on their way?.Protesters started a fire on the city hall place. During all the week after, people gathered every evening to protest against the evictions (that was largely covered by local medias, with the council reprensetatives justifying this eviction in middle of the winter by saying they had to do because they had booked the riot cops). They did various kind of rioting actions and illegal fires in the streets of rennes.
AND OTHER THINGS NOT YET REGISTERED -LONG LIVE THE 400!- AWAY WITH THE PS -.
MORE INFO TO COME ON OTHER ACTIONS IN STRASBOURG, ALES, LILLE, TOULOUSE, GENEVA, ETC.
3)HOW TO SEND PROTEST LETTERS AND FAXES TO SUPPORT THE 400 COUVERTS AGAINST THE EVICTION…
THE MORE PRESSURE WE PUT ON GRENOBLE’S CITY COUNCIL FROM EVERYWHERE, THE MORE THE 400 COUVERTS WILL BE ABLE TO STAY.
IF YOU INTEND TO CARRY ON PROTESTING AGAINST EVICTIONS IN GRENOBLE:
YOU’RE DAMN INVITED TO ORGANIZE YOUR OWN ACTIONS AND TO INFORM GRENOBLE ABOUT THEM, BOTH THE 400 COUVERTS AND THE CITY COUNCIL OF COURSE.
IT’S ALSO GREAT IF YOU JUST TAKE A BIT OF TIME TO SEND ONE SHORT PROTEST FAX OR LETTER TO DESTOT, MAYOR OF GRENOBLE. IT CAN BE JUST A FEW LINES IN YOUR OWN LANGUAGE TO TELL THEM YOUR ANGER AND SUPPORT OF LES 400