30 TH OF APRIL 2005 / DEMONSTRACTION AGAINST THE EVICTION OF LES « 400 COUVERTS » SQUATTED STREET IN GRENOBLE
This is an invitation for a gigamega support demonstration for the threatened squatted street, the « 400 couverts » in grenoble.
30TH OF APRIL – MANIFESTA – MEETING POINT 1.30 PM IN THE 400 COUVERTS STREET.
Since a few months, the squatted street « les 400 couverts » have launched a campaign of resistance against their eviction.
The « 400 couverts » is a 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 (garden 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. The « 400 couverts » is one of the active basis of grenoble’s squatting, anti-capitalist,anti-authoritarian orfeminist initiatives and actions.
The owner of the buildings, the Socialist Party city council of grenoble is threatening to evict them since a year.
On the 25th of februray, actions and occupations against the Socialist party city councils and offices happened simultaneously in 17 towns in france to support les 400 couverts and threatened squats around france.
They now call for a creative street-party and demonstration in grenoble with laughs at the front of commercial centers, guerilla gardening, exchanges of konw-hows, street-food, weird walks, street bands, huge forks, panda dress, puppets and whatever you can imagine to bring.
Feel free to annouce this demonstration around other squats and social centers, to your friends, families of friends, networks and join the resistance…
If you can’t come to the demonstration, 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 :
A) THE 400 COUVERTS: WHAT? WHO?
B) ON THE SQUAT MOVEMENT IN FRANCE
C) DETAILED PRESENTATION OF THE 400 COUVERTS PROJECT AND SITUATION
A) 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.
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 medias.
The 400 couverts and friends have already inititiated various actions since 6 months to defend the occupied street and other threatened squats projects in France. On the 25th of february, through occupations, banner realeases, wallings, rubble dropping, demonstrations, openings, confrontation of reoresentatives, in 17 town in france, squatters have stood up both offensively and creatively to defend these spaces of living, creation, social experiments, thought, meetings and solidarity.
B) 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 6 years. On the other hand, some of the most active squats, such as Les 400 Couverts (in Grenoble) or l’Ekluserie in Rennes, Les Diables bleus 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.
C) DETAILED PRESENTATION OF THE 400 COUVERTS PROJECT AND SITUATION
HISTORY AND ACTIVITIES OF THE “400 COUVERTS”
The following text about the “400 couverts” was written to inform the neighborhood and local people about the « 400 couverts » present situation but should be of interest for anyone who wants to know more about one of the creative experience and resistance of the french squat movement.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN « LES 400 COUVERTS » ?
A WHOLE STREET PROGRESSIVELY OCCUPIED IN THE TOWN CENTER…
- 6 squatted buildings that are rehabilitated since two years and an half + the housing of twenty people and a collective living space
- the « chapitonom »; an home-made public space, a circus tent in a barn where more than 2000 people met during one of the 70 free public events organised since two years (gigs, cinemas, theater, debates…)
- a baker’s oven made of cob (mud, straw, manure…) builded in spring 2003 in order to bake bread, pizzas, cakes with woodfire and used for neighborhood public food organized in the street.
- an oil filtering working space to feed the squat’s vehicles with recycled sunflower’s oil and to replace diesel
- the infoshop, a library of more than 1000 books, booklets, magazines and videos about various political issues. This infoshop is part of the french infoshop network and involved with the website http://infokiosques.net
- a free zone where everybody can get clothes and various others things and put whatever he/she doesn’t use anymore.
- a « yourte »: do-it-yourself mongol tent for half-nomadic living projects.
- a vegetable garden
- a public garden, rehabilitated, painted and decorated with mosaics – various fruits trees planted in the streets *
- some spaces of meetings and stockage for various associations and collectives (festival of resistance against capitalism, indymedia grenoble, anti-psychiatry collective, sunflower oil network, Iosk and Zanzara athée booklets distros…)
- some barns to keep skips and home-made food
- a practice room for dance, theater, boxing, feminist self-defense workshops…
- a computer workshop based on free softwares (Unix – Gnu/Linux)
- a bicycle repairing workshop
- a collective kitchen to organize public meals
- some specific workshops and skill exchanges on stained glass, screen printing, joinery, pottery, seam…and general house rehabilitation (electricity, plumbing, lime, tiling, masonry and all sorts of crazy decorations….)
All these spaces and activities are made Do It Yourself, without any institutional subsidies and generally without money, outside any business or institutional structures. They’re linked together through exchanges and meetings between people, inhabitants or participants to these activities and through developing some common state of mind and interrogations. Our activities are aimed at challenging various norms and systems, from «cultural consumption » to this society based on profit, competition, and « growth »… The life of the 400 street is rythmed by skipping and skill exchanges, researching human relations without domination, meetings, fest around a white tablecloth, country-town links, theoretical discussions, friendliness times with the neighborhood, transmission of knowledges, participation to some demonstration and social struggles (in particular around the housing issue with the defend-toit collective)…
The city council of Grenoble, owner of the place, has always been either indifferent or frankly hostile towards les 400 couverts : they threatened to cut the water, have started a trial for eviction and have destroyedn the roof of one of the houses to prevent it from being occupied…
It is only through the local newspaper, the «liberated dolphiné» (dauphiné libéré), that we have been informed of their project to destroy the building and evict us in 2004. Grenoble’s city council didn’t get inn touch since two years and seems to put in practice their so-called politic of « dialogue » only through bailiffs and riot cops.
WE WANT TO UNDERLINE WHAT WILL DISAPPEAR IF THE « 400 COUVERTS » ARE EVICTED.
Grenoble city council propaganda praises « avant garde », cultural diversity and so on… but will sign the death of a priceless experience of collective living and self-management , right in the town center, integrated since years in the neighborhood and in a network of local and regional collectives. The city council spend millions in its « house of culture » for entertainment…but put to dust a space of creativity, exchanges and solidarity that doesn’t cost anything.
With this forth eviction of our collective in four years (the squats CPA 1, CPA 2 and sing sing…), they show clearly that they don’t want to let any space for this kind of projects.
(Grenoble’s city council is a so called «socialist party» municipality and therefore create a specific public « social » speech that tries to hide their liberal and authoritarian agenda. Following words in italic are typical of their hypocritical propaganda…)
Is it the way they want to solve the huge «housing crisis» ?
Is it the way they want to recreate «social links» ?
Is it the way they want to promote the creative «initiatives» of grenoble’s inhabitants ?
What will they sacrifice again to clean, control, and standardize the town, to attract new investors and a profitable population of nano-technology engineers ?
What new fake shows of dialogue will they offer in order to give a human face to their evictions and other such glorious initiatives ?
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY IN THE « 400 COUVERTS » SQUATTED STREET MUST GO ON, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH A «TEMPORARY ANOMALY».
With many people and creativity, we can still stop the city council. Some of us came in this street to live, make bread, dance, see shows, debate in small groups, choose free clothes…let’s defend this street together.
Spaces of autonomy and experimentation are priceless, we won’t let them be destroyed.
Spread the news, join the phone-tree… You can also write support letter and send it to the the mayor of grenoble : maire de grenoble – 11 bvd jean pain 38 000 Grenoble (and please send a copy to les 400 couverts).
All initiatives are welcomed : you can for example occupy the headquarters of political parties linked to the french socialist party (labour in england, NPD in Canada, DSA and SDUSA in the US…) and ask them to send protest faxes to Grenoble’s city council (city council’s fax : 04 76 76 39 40)
There’s an infopoint everyday at noon to meet us, ask questions and give ideas, to visit the place and see what’s going on, and to know about the last 400ers adventures.