Warsaw: Press release Elba squat

On the 16th of March around 11am a group of workers from “Skrzecz” security agency entered unlawfully the premises of Elba, an alternative social centre in Warsaw. The security was hired by the landlord, the Finnish company Stora Enso. At this time there were several people on the ground who were beaten and forced out of the buildings. The security agents left a path of destruction inside the buildings and took away belongings of the residents of the squat. In the course of actions of the secutity agents money disappeared. This unlawful raid and illegal actions were actively supported by a group of police officers. As a matter of fact they made it impossible to defend against the agression of the security agents and did not react on countless incidents of breaking the law.

Neighter the company representative, nor the security or the police did show any document proving that the eviction is legal. On the demand to show any decision of the court there were given outrageous answers like “all the documents were left in the office”. Furthermore, the police officers refused to identify themselves and state the reason of the intervention. The police acted without any legal ground and did not reveal any reason for their actions. A group of 20-30 people gathered in front of the building protesting against the eviction. The police considered the assembly illegal, which is contradictory to the constitutional right to call for a spontanous assembly. The law states that if there was not enough time to inform the authorities, a spontanous demonstrations has to be considered legal. Despite this the police were very brutal towards the protesters, kicking and beating them with fists and sticks. Without any warning pepper spray was used several times. One of the protesters was striken with a taser, another was taken to the hospital due to severe injuries from pepper spray. In the intervention also a riot police division armed with smoothbore riot guns and a water cannon took part. The amount of physical force was noncompliant to the jeopardy and police used it unlawfully even against persons who were meeting their commands. As the situation developed, the police called out to clear the road and to move on to the sidewalk. The protesters met the command, but despite that, the sitting crowd was surrounded by a police line, beaten with sticks and pepper-sprayed. The landlord has been aware for many years of the existence and activity of the culture centre “Elba”, as well as of the fact that people live on the premise. The incursion completely surprised the residents. There was no attempt to negotiate with the users of the building, no one was notified about the plans towards the estate. It is crucial to emphasise, that the users of the premise became its owners. In this case, according to the decree absolute, an eviction without a decree is illegal and any intervention can take place only by permission of the users of the premise. In a similar situation which took place in Wrocław in 1998, European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg recognized the action of the police as illegal and infringing The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. A situation when the police breaks the law to protect private property is highly disturbing. It delivers proof of conscious acts against tennants and corresponds with the disrespectful and inhumane attitude of the authorities towards the citizens of Warsaw; an attitude supported by the will of profit and complete disregard of human rights. The Elba squat is a crucial point on the cultural map of Żoliborz and Warsaw as a whole. Without any donations independent social-cultural activities, like concerts, exhibitions, plays, discussions, screenings, festivals took place on Elba. Every week food for homeless people is cooked on the squat. All the initiatives are conducted without any state subventions. Destroying the Elba culture center would be a great loss for the cultural offer of the capital. It is a unique place in Warsaw and its value cannot be underestimated.