Lund, Sweden: Report from Squatting festival “165”

Report from squatting festival in Lund, Sweden 16-17, May 2009



For many years in Sweden, squatting houses has been something not attempted very often, a lot because of the no-tolerance laws and practice by the Swedish state. The attempts during the last 15-20 years met heavy sentences and the interest in squatting sank to a low level. After the eviction of Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen many were inspired by the resistance and the movement that arose around the fight for a youth house, and the idea started to seem more real again. During the international squat days of action in April 2008 several houses were squatted in many Swedish cities, purposely during a limited time to make public activities.

The temporary squattings continued after the action days and in the October 2008 a house in Lund was squatted, later called “smultronstället” which lasted for about a month. It was publicly squatted and the squatters intended to live there as long as possible. As it happened the housing situation in Sweden in general was going towards an extreme level compared to the comfortable existence most people took for granted after years of social democratic rule in the supposed model society. Lund, a small town mainly based around its university, had reached a very difficult housing situation especially for young people from the area. It was even harder for them to find a flat than for students moving there from other towns. They quickly gained a big and broad support among neighbors and the people from town with their open and inviting attitude and many came by to visit. The local media also portrayed the whole thing surprisingly good. Negotiations were started with the municipality that hadn’t dared to give the eviction order yet as they were blamed for the housing politics. But after weeks of meetings and promises from the side of the politicians the squat was evicted without any notice before. The night of the eviction a big demonstration was held through the city center and shortly after, two new houses were squatted, though they were evicted the same day.

Tired of the lies and backstabbing from the local politicians, the occupiers decided to make a big festival to squat new houses in the town center in a mass action, inspired the similar G13 in Copenhagen. So as the 16th of may got closer, people from many other Swedish towns had been invited and preparations were made. The plan was for 3 main blocks in different colors to squat one house each. The locations of the houses were to be kept secret until the same day and it was agreed to keep to a line of confrontative non-violence and not to negotiate with neither police nor politicians.

Saturday 16/5

A few hundred people started gathering at the main square in Lund around 14:00. There where bands playing, speeches, music, food and in general a great mood. Many wore white overalls and the 4 different blocks had their own colors. The aim for people in the 3 blocks dressed in red, green and white was to attempt to squat one house each and the blue block was for supporters that wanted a low level of confrontation.

Only about 300 m after the demo started, it reached the first house the green block was aiming for. Carrying ladders behind the front banner, the green broke out to the right in a crossing and started rushing towards the entrance to the yard by the house. Most of them passed a line of horse cops by clapping and screaming to scare the horses back, but were later closed in by the horses. In the yard some of them climbed up a ladder trying to enter the house through a window, there was some struggle as the cops got up to the roof. About 20 people were caught and held by civil cops in the yard but some managed to escape through the back door of a restaurant, back to the street.

Out in the street the cops started to close off the entrance to the yard and make lines to keep the other blocks out. Smoke and firecrackers were thrown against the horses which gave the cops problems to control them. Meanwhile on the other side of the corner the red block blocked the street from the cops and tried to storm into the yard through another gate with big shields held by 4 people, but were blocked by a line of cops in the doorway. The attempt to push through the line in the gate was stopped when the cops beat the ones in the front with pepper spray and truncheon blows to heads and legs. One person was hit unconscious and was taken to the hospital with concussion.

After some confusion and as the cops started to kettle the remaining 2 blocks from both sides and after some waiting there was a break out attempt by the white block, now pretty mixed up, in the opposite direction. One of the bigger shields was taken by the pigs but with the smaller padded shields in a line, around 150 managed to get through the pig line that started using massive amounts of pepper spray against the crowd. The breakout group ran out to a park and got to the goal for the white block – an old abandoned observatory, and a ladder was put up and a window that was smashed in. One person got into the house and a second was on the way in as the civil cops dragged the person out (who cut up an arm on the glass). In the confusion 2 cops fell into a hole by the side of the house and one of them broke his foot climbing up. It turned out to be the leader cop of the eviction of “Smultronstället”, Per Grahn – a well known ugly face in Lund who was caught on camera as it all happened and a video was put on youtube. 26 people were arrested, and the main demo was called off for the day. Most people gathered in the bar of a student union called Smålands Nation to get food and rest. Some hours later a reclaim the streets was held outside the cop station in support of the arrested people from that day. The mobile party continued back to Smålands Nation where there was a nice party with the sound system playing in the street with football and small fires on the street.

During the night a house was secretly squatted by about 60 people. It had earlier been used as a mental hospital for young people and after the barricades were made they spent the night in the house.

Sunday 17/5

At 1400 the second day’s demo started leaving the center with some 300 people. After about half of the way the news was announced in the speaker wagon that a house had been occupied in a southern part of town and cheering the demo started running in that direction. At the house, located in the middle of a park area the cops had just started surrounding the house and about 30 occupiers had barricaded the rest of the house and taken to the roof. As the demo reached the park it split up and started running into smaller groups that managed to pass past the cop lines to get close to the house. The police was busy trying to hold a ring around the house but couldn’t prevent one big group that got into the empty house next to the already squatted one and with about 60 people they closed up and made barricades.

After about an hour of stress with the pigs that tried to defend and extend the restricted area around the houses, two cop vans drove up to the houses with built in ladders. Horses and dogs were used to try chase off the supporters amongst the trees, but they had little success. One person was bitten by a dog, several where removed by the police and 30 were arrested. The pigs eventually entered into the second house using the ladder car, evicting the occupiers who were taken away one by one and put into a school bus that drove off and left many outside of town. Many were under the legally punishable age of 15. The two houses were connected through a tunnel system running all around the area and some moved around and between the houses during the evictions. One person broke a leg getting out but managed to escape the police.

A group of special cops climbed up the ladders to the roof where the occupants of the first house were sitting while holding on to each other in chains. After an hour the occupants were violently forced down one at a time through a hole down to the attic. Pepper-spray and arm bars were used on those that resisted the removal and several were beaten on the way through the attic. After getting identified and taken in buses to the cop station in Lund, all except a few were let go after being charged with illegal entry. The others were kept in cells one day more together with the 7 arrested from the first day.

Later that evening there was one more attempt to squat a house but the cops were prepared and they were removed. 90 people were arrested or taken into custody during the weekend and the liberal press was of course desperate and outraged, trying to claim that the insides of the houses had been wrecked and that the demonstrations were violent. The group that took the initiative consider the weekend as a huge success. With 2 houses squatted and 4 attempts the goal of the weekend was achieved: to squat houses in a mass action.



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