Lausanne: Occupation of a building to accommodate homeless people

On Friday May 29th at the end of the day, during the Critical Mass, we occupied the Place Bel-Air 4 building in downtown Lausanne with the aim of creating a place of welcome for people in need of housing, but also a place of solidarity, convergence of struggles, culture and sharing. The Municipality gave the order to evict and the building was emptied a few hours later by the police, but this event will be remembered and reminds us that autonomous, supportive and resistant places are more than ever necessary.

With the end of the lock down, Lausanne has reduced the number of housing units for the homeless. Friday’s occupation was made in response to the Sleep-In Association’s Appeal 212, which asked to do everything possible to ensure that the 212 beds that were provided during the coronavirus period would be maintained all year round, thus meeting the real needs of homeless people in the Lausanne region. The covid-19 pandemic has shown that many emergency measures can be put in place quickly and that immense financial resources can be found to support the economy and save multinationals. Why don’t we see a similar mobilization for climate emergency and social justice?

1’200 square meters unused for a decade

The building we occupied has been empty for a decade. After the Banque Cantotal Vaudoise moved, there was a string of different companies, many of which fell. The company that owns the building, Swiss Investment Concept AG, is also in compulsory liquidation. However, it has decided to file a complaint against those who occupied the building on Friday. Public information indicates that the building will be used to build a shopping centre – we are, however, convinced that there are much better ways to use this space …

An eventful evening

Friday was also Critical Mass Day. Hundreds of cyclists took to the streets of Lausanne. They stopped in front of Place Bel-Air 4, and activists entered the building. Shortly afterwards, police officers blocked some of the entrances. Cyclists who remained outside were joined by other supporters. Police presence increased, and vans arrived. Despite some attempts at negotiation, to which they systematically responded with mockery, the police demanded that the premises be emptied by 9:45 p.m., at which time they would return by force to evict those still in the building. In particular, the police made it clear that those who did not leave voluntarily would be taken out by the riot police, with their batons and tear gas. The argument given by the (supposedly left-wing) Municipality for giving the order to the police was that the premises were not fully secured. The Lausanne police again reacted disproportionately to a non-violent demonstration, as shown in the video at the bottom of the page. Last week, on May 25 in Minneapolis, George Floyd died suffocated by the police, like many other racialized people before him. This is not an isolated event, and it also happened in Switzerland. The police is a racist, violent and murderous institution and the system of which it is a part must be fought.

What happens now?

The squatting movement has been around for decades and is still needed. Squatting means acting directly on our living conditions, it means taking back control of places that should have belonged to the community for a long time. Squatting means giving power back to the people, fighting the absurdity of private property. Squatting is fighting directly against the fact that some people own so much real estate that they keep it empty while others have nowhere to sleep. It’s time for a second golden age for squats in Switzerland! Lausanne (and the rest of Switzerland) has a lot of empty buildings, yet many people have no safe place to live. So it’s not a problem of lack of space – it’s a lack of political and societal will. We do not want a world where such inequalities continue. The City has not shown itself capable of protecting its most vulnerable residents, which is why we have decided to take action. We ask that the most vulnerable and precarious be protected, and we want to have autonomous spaces to share, exchange, build, live. We strongly hope to see other similar alternatives created in the region.

Squat your city, ZAD everywhere!

Some squats in Lausanne:
Groups (social center, collective, squat) in Lausanne:
Events in Lausanne:

Some squats in Switzerland:
Groups (social center, collective, squat) in Switzerland:
Events in Switzerland:

source: Renversé