Saturday, April 18, 2009

Molly is always inspired by the actions of the Icelandic anarchists. Here is a whole country with about half the population of the city in which Molly lives (which is hardly the throbbing, pulsating centre of the universe itself). Yet the Icelandic comrades played an important role in the overthrow of the previous government of that country, and they continue to grow and experiment. Here is the latest report of one of their actions from the English language section of the Icelandic anarchist blog Aftaka.
Anarchists Squat in the Center of Reykjavík:
Last Thursday, 9th of April, an empty house in the center of Reykjavík was squatted by Icelandic anarchists. The house has been empty for over a year and is only one of many houses that are owned by a construction company that plans to tear down all it’s old houses and replace with big shopping and office center.

When inside the house, the squatters cleaned a part of the house and opened it up for an opening party. Food was served, music played and talks given on the ideas behind squatting. The party was well attended and met with positive reactions by the guests, including the neighbours.

During the next days the squatters finished cleaning the house and started organizing it as a social center. A free-shop was set up as well as a little infoshop with radical literature, a D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself!) publisher/label and a communal kitchen. On Saturday there was an open day where the local Food Not Bombs collective served food and guests were welcomed to take a look at the space and share their ideas about how the social center can be used.

This letter was sent out by the squatters:
A social center has been squatted at Vatnsstígur 4.

Empty houses stand everywhere; houses that were supposed to be torn down for the building of shopping malls, houses that were supposed to be rented out on sky-high prices, houses that were supposed to make the rich even richer and the society culturally poorer.

We did not ask for permission to use this house. We do not need permission from those who think they can boss around with lives and land in the name of finance. We do not take part in that system.

We take what rightly is ours and in this house we will create a social space where people can meet and use it in the way they think matters, e.g. organizing info-nights and lectures, cooking food, start reading circles, attending political activities and do all kinds of arts.

The space will be open to all those who want to work towards radical changes on the money-driven society we live in.

The capitalistic democracy like we know it, is in fact only one more power structure, designed to boss around with people and make money by it. People are taught that it is the only just system that the human being has ever created around itself, but that is not true. Inside the democracy the majority represses the minority and only very few people end up on the top of the power pyramid, at the expense of the majority. For every prime minister there are millions who are not. Consensus decision making is a method that anarchists and other radicals use to get decisions inside groups, small and big, instead of the democracy’s majority elections. We use the opportunity to create alternatives, instead of only choosing between them.

Capitalism gives people or companies the change to own houses but let them stand empty, even though many people need homes and other places to stay. The banks own most of the empty houses and the public is supposed to pay for the games of lies that was accepted “before the collapse”. We will not pay for them!

This squat is headed towards authority, capitalism and all kinds of power playing. Our house will be free from the current Icelandic authorities and free from any kind of power structures on our behalf.

We, the people, toppled the former government and we are far away from having finished the deconstruction of the system of inequality and greed, as well as the parallel construction of the society we want to live in. We encourage others to refuse to pay for the banks’ debts, refuse to leave their own houses and start squatting!

Threat of eviction Yesterday, Tuesday April 14th, the paper-owners of the house came along with civil-dressed policemen and announced that the house would have to be empty at 16:00. With very short notice the squatters barricaded the house and asked for a solidarity demonstration to take place in front of the house. Around 15:00 people starting coming, a fire was lit, drums played and slogans shouted in favor of the squatters. Couple of hundreds of people attended the demonstration and the free shop was opened.

A speech was held by one of the squatters:
This is what we call solidarity!
It is amazing to see you all here today. This is what we call solidarity! We who have squatted this house are going to change the society we live in. A part of it is to protect this house; a house that was supposed to enter the gob of the capital since a shopping mall was planned to be built on this spot.

Now this house belongs to us - the people here inside and those who stand outside - and will be used for our revolution. To destroy this society’s power structures we need a revolution - not elections! Today, we who are inside and you who stand outside in this disgusting weather, stopped the corporate scum from getting their way with the violence that only them have the right to use.

But since the police is not going to be sent towards us now, the government will send it tonight, tomorrow, later in the week or after elections. No matter if we will be thrown out or if we will be aloud to stay, we will get stronger. This house is ours! The struggle is ours; a struggle against authority and capitalism.

The revolution is - and has to be - international. With this squat we announce our support and solidarity with the oppressed people living in Palestine and their siblings on the other side of the wall, Anarchists Against the Wall; the Zapatista resistance movement in Mexico; the Polish squatters in the Rozbrat-squat in Poznan; Mumia Abu Jamal, Rod Coronado and all other political prisoners in the U.S.; the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa, India, who fight against bauxite mining… and all other people and/or movements that fight against power abuse, corruption, capitalism, exploitation, oppression and violence - all around the world.

Squatting is one part of the revolution and therefor we encourage everybody to squat houses; take over empty houses or refuse to leave their own house.
Long live the revolution!

The squatters at Vatnsstígur 4.

In the end the police did not show up. The reason is unknown but the threat of eviction still remains. The squat has received very good coverage by the mainstream media and of course by the alternative ones. It has lead to big support and the squatters hope that the solidarity continues as the threat gets even bigger.

Until later.

— — —
A video from the demonstration can be seen by clicking here.
Unfortunately the squat in Reykjavik didn't last long. here is a follow-up from the Aftaka Blog about its suppression. As I said in the introduction to this post it is part of the essence of anarchism to be experimental ie "scientific" by testing various hypotheses against reality. In this it differs from ideologies such as Marxism that always try and fit reality to a pre-existing system of ideas. For anarchists, if one thing doesn't work, then try another. There is no absolute reason why squats cannot "work". There are many arguments about their importance and how they should be organized and presented to the surrounding society. This, of course, is part of the "experiment", and it is to anarchism's credit that it is open to seeing what works and what doesn't, and the "why" of both.

The Squat Evicted - Two Hours of Resistance Against the Special Force :
After a whole day of the threat of an eviction, solidarity demonstration and support, the police finally showed up at the recently opened squat in the center of Reykjavík. At 08:00 in the morning between 40 and 50 policemen, including many members of the special force, came towards the house, attacked and arrested three people who were standing outside, sweeping the ground around the house. The squatters inside were told to leave the building and if not, they would get arrested. Of course, they refused to leave.

The police authorities might have believed that by coming early in the morning, the eviction would not get any attention and support. But they were wrong. Very soon, the neighborhood was crowded with people who came to follow what was happening and to show solidarity with the squatters. Many of the neighbors had already announced their support with the squat and denounced the plans to build shopping and office spaces on the spot.

The police closed the nearby streets and started attacking the house but the squatters had built proper barricades on all floors. When the police tried to enter the house from the back, they were met with expired dairy products that were thrown at them. After a bit of a struggle they finally got on to the first floor were nobody was. The squatters had barricaded the second floor extensively, so well that it took the special force two hours to get through, by using chain saws. All of the police’s attempts to get through were met with resistance; more things and liquids were thrown at them and sticks were used to push them down the stairs of the building.

During the police’s entry attempt the squatters held speeches through the windows. Statements against capitalists and authority were read out and the public was encouraged to take direct action against these violent forces of corruption.

“In this society, the most easy thing is to be silent; to stay behind the yellow police line and stand still; to stay at home and obey to authorities’ orders. That behavior leads to personal comfort. And isolated and personal comfort seems to be the main goals of many people’s lives.
The financial crisis are not the problem. The period of prosperity is the problem! It spoiled and silenced the public; it killed every sign of resistance.

We squatted this house as an act of resistance. Do the same - again and again and again. That’s how we change this society.”

The police’s struggle became harder and harder, since the resistance was to heavy for them. Every time the chainsaw became visible to the squatters, it was immediately attacked; every time it looked more like the police was getting on to the second floor, the heavier did the barricade become.

After two hours of struggling the police finally managed to enter the second floor. The squatters resisted but were attacked with peeper spray and violent behavior by the police. They were all handcuffed and put on the floor, while the police broke every second window of the house without any noticeable reason. The squatters were carried out and thrown into police vans, which were supposed to drive them to the police station. But supporters from the outside sat down and blockaded the street, with the purpose to stop the cars from getting their way, but were removed quickly.

A photographer was pulled out of the crowd by the police, dragged on the ground and half undressed. When he asked the police for the reason of his arrest he was told that it was because he had spat on a policeman in a protest by the parliament in January. Witnesses say it was obvious that the photographer was arrested because of how closely he photographed the police actions and how loudly he protested against it.

The squatters were driven to the police station were they were interviewed and kept there for up to 5 hours. Many of the arrested had breathing problems because of the pepper spray and one of them had been brutally attacked by a policemen. When being carried out of the squat, one of the policemen who was holding the squatter by her throat, kicked her head heavily to the door. In the police station the squatter was refused medical treatment if she would not give out her security number. Well, this is not a surprise; in the capitalistic democracy one does not deserve medical treatment except fitting to the regulations of this system of surveillance.

At the same time people had gathered by the police station to protest against the arrests and to show solidarity with the squatters. A black flag was pulled up on a flag pole in front of the police station and music played from a ghetto blaster. After several hours the arrested started to appear out of the station and were welcomed by the crowd, interviewed by the the media and fed by its supporters.

One of the squatters had a photo camera inside during the eviction, which was taken from her when she was arrested. She was refused to get it back when she was released but finally got it the day after. Then, the police had deleted all the photos from the camera. But the policemen are more stupid then they look like… and the photos are back. Many of them decorate this article.

The squat and all the public attention around it has brought up the necessary discussion about the conflict between property rights and the right to use. In the current atmosphere in Iceland, after the collapse of the economy, this discussion is way more positive than one could have believed. The banks own most of the empty houses and the banks are for sure not the most popular right now. The squat got heavy support from all directions, likely and unlikely, and showed that this is the time to start a squatting movement. The squatters of Vatnsstígur are far away from retiring.

A statement from the squatters will be published soon.
Molly urges her readers to go to the Aftaka Blog for many photos of both the squat and its suppression. If one thing can be said for the Icelandic anarchists it is that they truly love to take pictures...and they do it well.

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