Oslo: Call-out for international solidarity for threatened Borgen building

Thursday, 18th of april 2013

Borgen in the ‘old city’ in Oslo is a gigantic building which since ’93 has been used as offices for the national railway and later as a cultural fortress with studios and workshops for artists etc. The building has been, and still is a vital part of the borough; it’s a landmark and housing extintionthreathened bats.

The national railway wants to tear down the building with the excuse of constructing a new railway line which could be built underground instead. The former users of Borgen as well as local authorities said no to the destruction of the building. When they weren’t able to stop the process (the Oslo Council Plan- and building department gave permission to deconstruct without a single reasonable democratic hearing) Boligaksjonen (the housingaction) took the baton Friday april 5th.

We’re a group of engaged neighbors, artists, homeless youth, gypsies and travellers who wish to preserve this structure of cultural significance without any overtramp of the local democracy. The collective consists of about 70 people wanting to bring attention to Borgens cultural heritage, and raise issues concerning homelessness in Oslo and discrimination against travellers. We wish to promote local artists work in a non-commercial manner and stop the gentrification of the borough.

We have cleaned up, secured the house, arranged everything from peoples kitchens to workshops of different kinds to electronica parties. Our cultural house has become a large social factor in the local environment, hence we are taking care of and including socially neglected groups, as unestablished artists, homeless youth and travelling people. Borgen has developed into a crosspoint for the different cultures of the neighbourhood and a freespace where nobody has the intention of earning money or social status of the presence of others, but rather give space for cooperation, exchange and orientation towards solutions instead of exacerbating the differences and the stigmatisation of the groups. Borgen has become a fortress against exclusion and the pressure from a constantly harder and more commersialized society.

The 8 of April the fire brigade and construction workers forced their way in, and under cover of “safety checking” the house, they cut the electricity, and NG (Stately recycling company) took the connection to the water April 10. Monday morning April the 10th, construction workers tricked some of the occupants to let them in by sending two persons speaking romani and pretending to be of the travelling people – saying the police was on their way, and that everybody should leave the house. This scared many of the inhabitants out in the streets, and traumatized our community.

The owner (Jernbaneverket, the states railway company) summoned us to court, we answered their papers asking for verbal negotiations, both for restarting the democratic process for deconstruction of the property and restoring water and electricity access to us.

This is a call-out to the international society for solidarity and attention around these events – especially around the constant danger of gentrification and commercialization of one of the few parts of wealthy Oslo that offers shelter and space for minority cultures and the economically weak population, and of the danger of Borgen that, amongst other things, offers shelter and acceptance to the travelling people whom are of great numbers and even greater discrimination in Oslo.

The society we live in here is one of a so-called democratic kind, and in that kind of society all voices are to be heard – and we demand that governmental institutions and the corporate powers are to stop taking advantage of bureaucratic confusion for pushing their ideas of revitalizing of Oslo east before they have heard what the inhabitants actually want.

Best regards of revolting and including power

Borgen, Boligaksjonen, the travelling residents and excluded people of Oslo