From July 26th to July 30th, an intergalactic festival of squatters, anarchists & miscellaneous activists took place in Freiburg im Beisgau, South Germany: “DIY against the state”. It was meant to allow hundreds of participants to meet & share, putting forward the ideas of autonomous living, anticapitalist & anti-authoritatian struggles, through “do it yourself” practice. Tens of workshops, discussions, video-screenings and skill-shares were planned, together with actions & parties, throughout various alternatives venues in the city, like the KTS radical-left social centre, the Schattenparker wagenplatz, or the Susi housing co-op.
While the event started well, with some 300 international participants setting up a self-managed camp on a squatted piece of land, the police was quick to react and sabotage the initiative, in a series of provocations and repressive actions, starting with the arrest of a participant in front of the KTS while a concert was going on, continuing with the eviction of the whole camping site by some 500 riot cops the next day (photos [1|2]), culminating in the total lock-up of the city centre & on Saturday, where the police chased demonstrators trough the streets, made hundreds of identifications, some 60 arrests, injured 7 people, and charged 3 demonstrators with made-up accusations, to prevent a Reclaim The Streets action from happening.
Authorities have clearly tried to dismantle an autonomous initiative, not only by intimidating its participants, but also by destroying its structures, and criminalizing it as a whole. It should be noted that the city of Freiburg is well known for being the most “left-wing” city in Germany, with the Green Party running the council. Last days have made it clear, for those who were still doubting it, that supposedly “alternative” institutional politics can very well cope with the most blatant repression, and turn a city into a police state to ban the right to protest & to self-determination, as soon as authorities’ (lack of) control is at stake. Nevertheless, this seems to proove organizors’ point – when the state tries to crush DIY initiatives, is there any solution but to organise and… DIY against the state?
DIY against the State http://diyagainst.squat.net/
Café Susi http://www.syndikat.org/go/
Indymedia Germany http://de.indymedia.org/
Radio program on the festival (de) http://de.indymedia.org/2006/07/153357.shtml
Defending autonomous spaces (Pga) http://pgaconference.org/en/2006/autonomous_spaces
On Wednesday 26th, July 2006, hundreds of people started to gather in Freiburg im Breisgau, for the “DIY Against the state festival”: an “intergalactic anarchist convention” for squatters, truckers & miscellaneous activist types, brought together for a mix of of workshops & discussions, encounters & collective-life moments, concerts & parties, as well as political actions; an occasion to share experiences & perspectives in between those involved in building autonomous structures & communities; an occasion to give visibility to the anti-authoritarian & anticapitalist cultures that live within these spaces; a desire to resist the repression such initiatives often face, in Freiburg and elsewhere, with the “Do It Yourself” ethics as praxis.
Presentations & debates included the following topics: street medics training, direct action strategies, the upcoming Peoples’ Global Action conference in France this summer, the preparation of an anti-G8 camp in Germany, squatting in Amsterdam, international intersquat exchange, repression in Barcelona, unrest in France in Spring 2006, Queeruption in Tel-Aviv, and a large number of other things.
Events were to be hosted by various local initiatives, including the KTS (a radical-left social centre), the Schattenparker (a wagenburg – houses on trailers, trucks & vans), and the Susi (a self-managed housing co-op).
Wednesday 26th – good start
Accomodation was provided by squatting a piece of land next to the Schattenparker, on which a camp with vegan kitchen structures, an information point, tents for workshops, and an eclectic collection of press tables, DIY badge-making corner, bicycle-repair space, among other contributions was set up. The number of tents, trucks and vehicles kept growing, to reach the number of approximatively 300 participants eventually.
Thursday 27th – here they come again
Unfortunately, the police was to enter the party, as soon as the second day of the festival, on Thursday 27th. As a concert was going on in the KTS, the police came & arrested someone, accusing him of spray-painting. Witnesses naturally opposed the arrest, and intended to start a negociation with the cops, without success. The situation escalated when police called in some reinvorcements, eventually putting out dogs and battons to try to disperse protestors, who by then had come in greater numbers to surround the police car, preventing it from taking the prisonner away. Tension rose, and a few bottles made their way towards the police, along with slogans and a rising anger. A few police car windows disappeared in the process, and a policeman was allegedly injured by a flying shard of broken glass. The situation getting slightly out of hand, the police retreated, shortly pursued by an angry crowd, which didn’t finally manage to get the arrested person back.
This was to be the first & only incident, that would serve as an excuse for all further police exactions. As if their provocation was not enough, cops came back an hour later in great numbers with riot gear, stoping & identifying all passers-by. At 5 in the morning, they charged people gathering around the KTS, who had raised a defensive barricade to protect the space from police assault, and just had time to retreat in the basement behind closed doors. The police totally surrounded the KTS, and as an imminent eviction seemed like the most probable next step, police finally left, leaving people dizzy, after a first night of unexpected agression.
Friday 28th – swept away? not!
It was just a few hours of truce until the police would be seen again, this time on the camp site. While workshops were simultaneously going on in different parts of the city on this Friday afternoon, some 85 police vans made their way towards the camp, for some 500 cops to block all issues and evict it. People had to rush to pack their stuff and unmount their tents, with the police filming the whole operation. Participants tried to pack the numerous remaining tents of those campers who were away, but were prevented to put them in the wagenplatz by the police, who was later seen throwing some remaining personnal effects – backpacks, tents, whatever – straight to the trash, none of which could be recovered. All participants’ identity was checked upon exit, with photos being systematically taken, and foreign participants being verbally notified a temporary ban from the city.
By the time the eviction was over, it was very clear that the police was full-on trying to stop the festival by destroying its very structures, criminalizing it by sending in a totally disproportionnate amount of police while there could be no resistance on the site, intimidating its participants by filing everyone of them and threatening foreigners with evicton or detention if they stayed, instrumentalizing a small scuffle that the police had itself provoked with its stubborn methods. As some of the people were leaving the city in disgust, others regrouped in the KTS & Susi, which opened their doors as shelters against this blatant repressive spiral. While it was revealed in an assembly that both the KTS & the Schattenparker had received threats from the city council after the police operation, it was obvious the DIY festival had to continue, since it was unthinkable to let the authorities get what they wanted – namely smash the event to pieces. As a result, this Friday night was both quiet & intense – no gig, but long discussions, and a certain determination.
Saturday 29th – reclaiming those streets they keep stealing away
Saturday 29th was the next day, and day for the Reclaim The Streets party in the inner city, as it had already been announced widely. All vehicles carrying sound-systems & equipment were stopped by the police, and groups of people marching towards the centre were quickly coordonned off by police. A group of about 100 demonstrators could escape by running under a bridge, crossing water, and ended up being chased for a while, until the police managed to split the group into two, then in tiny clusters, all running in different directions, trying to reach the Theatre, unofficial meeting point for the RTS. A fairly large samba band & pink bloc made it there and started playing, but eventually ended up being totally surrounded by police, to the astonishment of many passers by, while smaller groups were traped by cops all around town, in yet another startling display of repressive force. One walking around the centre could see nearly nothing but cops & police vehicles, with occasional groups from 5 to 50 demonstrators lined up against walls, being identified and photographed once more, for no other crime than walking in group.
Some managed to carry on some decentralized actions, though: a group set up a swimming-pool and casino play, together with banners, right in front of the cathedral; another drew dead bodies of freedom & self-determination all around the Bertholdsbrunnen, a central fountain in Freiburg; a third went doing some tango dance through pedestrian streets, together with passers by. However, the most of the demonstrators remained captive for hours at the Theatre, in front of the University. People were picked one by one from the police circle, with more physical violence as time went, identified & photographed yet another time, and either released, either taken to the police station, depending if they had been issued an eviction order or not the previous day. As a result, some more than 60 people were arrested that day, and released in the night, after hours of custody. At least three of them were charged with made-up accusations, and were freed against 200 or 300 euros of bail each, waiting for their trial. At least seven people were injured by the police, including a person needing stiches that was directly sent to the police station, instead of hospital. Yet another heavy account summary, considering especially that nothing happened – nothing but people walking, playing music, and sometimes chanting slogans.
Towards Sunday 30th – decentralized reactions
Solidarity actions were carried in the night, including: a traffic slow-down right outside of Freiburg, which allowed the distribution of hundreds of flyers, and some good communication with drivers, many of whom were supportive. It was dispersed by cops after a while, of course. Flyers were also spread in the centre during the saturday night fever, and posters were put up all around, asking people if a police take-over of the city really was how they wanted Freiburg to be. Meanwhile, a concert took place at the KTS, as people were slowly being released from custody, while news were coming from the Schattenparker that the whole site was totally surrounded by police vehicles, threatening to storm the place if any public activity was taking place over there. On Sunday 30th, some more actions allowed participants to the “DIY Against” to voice their indignation: a group of some 20 clowns went surrounding the town-hall with banners and red noses, but were soon joined by tens of police vehicles, which offered the usual encirclement, identity filing & rough company. However, a park was occupied in the afternoon until 10pm for a salvage concert with two bands playing, which, surprisingly enough, ended without police intervention. Meanwhile, workshops continued throughout the day in the KTS, the night ending with beamings of activist documentaries & a goodbye party.
So, what now?
The DIY festival is now over – days of police terror, but also days of resistance, during which hundreds of people remained insurgent in creatively refusing to comply, in maintaining the festival, in placing their legitimacy before legality (for all those who decided to stay in town, though officially banned from the city).
It should be noted that the city of Freiburg is well known for being the most “left-wing” city in Germany, with the Green Party running the council. Last days have made it clear, for those who were still doubting it, that supposedly “alternative” institutional politics can very well cope with the most blatant repression, and turn a city into a police state to ban the right to protest & to self-determination, as soon as authorities’ (lack of) control is at stake.
Nevertheless, this seems to proove organizors’ point – when the state tries to crush DIY initiatives, is there any solution but to organise and… DIY against the state?
Authorities have been answering an autonomous initiative by dismantling, intimidating, criminalizing, arresting, beating. This in itself might not be so surprising, if it wasn’t by far the biggest police operation one could see in Freiburg in years. Moreover, this seems to fit with the new police strategy that has been used in Freiburg since fall 2005, after the new police head went in. This raises a number of scary perspectives, and such an attempt to obliterate political movements cannot remain unchallenged & unanswered.
Initiative is greatly encouraged. Please organise actions in front of german embassies, to phone the city council and voice your indignation, to spread the word & raise awareness around the importance of what happened.
Let’s also not forget that some people are facing trials, and will need financial support. If you have the possibility of doing so, feel free to get in touch and organise benefit events & fundraising!
contact: diyagainst at squat.net
The KTS is a 12 year old project, that came out of the strong squatter movement that developped in Freiburg from the 80s onwards. The first KTS was occupied in 1994, but eventually burnt down in 1997 for an unknown reason, causing a black hole in the local radical-left, which was left with no social centre. After many demonstrations and 2 years without a social centre, public pressure finally forced the council into negociations, who ended up renting a space from the Deutsche Bahn (railway company) for the KTS collective.
Nevertheless, shit happened 2 years ago, when the DB tried to throw KTS out, and when a ban on public activities was issued. Concerts moved onto the streets of Freiburg as an answer, together with massive demonstrations, the peak being a “Love & Hate parade”, which brought more than 2500 people onto the streets of Freiburg, with police freaking out about the risk of people smashing the train station in protest. This ultimately resulted in the contract being renewed in January 2005, ending by the end of 2007.
Over the years, the KTS has become a central hub for radical-left activism & counter-culture, not only in Freiburg, but in South Germany as a whole, making it an essential resource to defend & preserve.
The Schattenparker is a “wagenplatz”, or “wagenburg” – literaly, a “trailer park”, or a collection of trucks, vans & miscellaneous vehicles in which people live, building collective structures in and around them, making it a small village.
Germany has had a strong “wagenburg” tradition for many years, and so has Freiburg, though it nearly came to a grinding halt a few years ago, when the city decided to systematically evict such installations.
The Schattenparker collective is not very old, but gets its name from an older wagenburg collective in Freiburg from the 90s, which was repeatedly evicted, but famous for always squatting back.
The current Schattenparker was living in a location called “Obi” til the end of 2005, tried to squat a new place when they had to leave, but was prevented from doing so by the police, who seized all their trucks, leaving people without homes in freezing winter.
After half a year of protest, the city found their current location, and the wagenplatz has a temporary contract, to be terminated by the end of August, this year. Unfortunately, it seems like the city is not keen at all on helping the wagenplatz, and wants to get rid of such setups in Freiburg.
To be continued..
A participant among others