Cologne: Elster squat in Ehrenfeld

German territory, July 19, 2019. Tonight, supporters of Cologne caravan spaces, Assata im Hof, the Autonomous Centre Cologne (AZ), the women of the 1006, the Socialist Self-help Mülheim (SSM) and other emancipatory projects for living spaces and open spaces squatted a house in Cologne-Ehrenfeld, Vogelsanger Straße 230, which had been unused for years. Concerts and a party will take place in the evening. For the coming days there is also a varied program with lectures, workshops and other things planned.

“We have joined together to revolt against failed urban development. The neoliberal exploitation policy of the City of Cologne does not meet the needs of its residents but prioritises economic interests. Affordable living space is given up in favour of luxury renovations or office space and self-organized (open space) projects are to be pushed to the outskirts or closed in order to create investment opportunities. We are fighting together against this sell-out of the city,” says activist Petra Silie.

More and more people can no longer afford the sharp rise in rents in Cologne and are being displaced to the outskirts of the city. The number of homeless people, especially women, is rising. Meanwhile, countless office spaces are vacant and thousands of apartments are being used as holiday homes. Profit-oriented real estate companies are driving rents up. Urban space becomes a means of maximizing profits. This applies not only to urban housing, but also to non-commercial and social projects that make a city worth living in.

“In view of how the city of Cologne deals with these problems and thus contributes itself to promote gentrification, we no longer expect anything from it. We take things into our own hands once again,” Petra Silie continues. “We are fighting for affordable housing and public space for non-commercial culture and self-organization! We need more of both, not less!”

Many self-organized, emancipatory projects in Cologne, such as the caravan sites, the AZ or Assata in the courtyard, are acutely threatened from displacement.

The city is planning to sell the site of Cologne’s oldest caravan site “Who owns the world”, which for 30 years has offered residential and cultural space for currently approx. 35 residents and numerous visitors. But the residents do not have any plans to move!

The Osterinsel caravan site, which has existed for 16 years, is threatened in its existence by construction projects of the city of Cologne and major investor Pandion. An old asphalt hall is to be demolished barely 1m away from inhabited caravans to build luxury apartments. It has not been clarified whether a construction site access road would lead across the grounds of Osterinsel and thus displace residents inside. In addition, the city is planning a public cycle path on Osterinsel.

As part of the prestige project Parkstadt-Süd, the AZ is to give way to the green belt extension. Despite numerous proposals, the city of Cologne refuses to consider integrating the AZ into the green belt. The fact that Parkstadt Süd is not primarily about a local recreation area for residents, but about the construction of a huge concrete complex with 4,500 offices and 3,500 expensive apartments, of which only a fraction will be attributed to social housing, is not mentioned. So far, there is no adequate alternative location for the AZ.

The contract of the self-help project Kat18 e.V., in which people have been living and working for over 30 years, was terminated by LEG Immobilien AG. Among other projects, this concerns the feminist space “Assata im Hof”, which has been used since 2015 by women, lesbians, non-binary, trans- and inter persons (FLINT) for various political activities. Here, too, there is no solution so far.

“Particularly in times of crisis developments with regard to housing shortages, climate change or social shifts to the right, we need free spaces for political participation in which social alternatives can be developed and tested. For this reason we have returned the space here in Vogelsanger Strasse 230 for general use. We invite you all to come by and contribute!”

We all are the city – we fight together!

Press Release, July 19, 2019

Originally published by  Indymedia DE . Translated by Enough 14.