In defence of free spaces… international call for decentralised days of action for squats and autonomous spaces

The call out for the A12 day of action in defence of autonomous spaces (2008). This saw demonstrations across Europe. In the UK there were actions in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham and London. Originally published early in 2008.

On Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th of April 2008, we call for two days of demonstration, direct action, public information, street-party, squatting… in defence of free spaces and for an anti-capitalist popular culture.

Through these two days, we want to help create more visibility of autonomous spaces and squats as a european/global political movement. We want to develop interconnections and solidarity between squats and autonomous spaces. We want to keep linking our spaces with new people and new struggles, and support the creation of autonomous spaces in places where there has not been a history of this kind of action. We want to build, step by step, our ability to overcome the wave of repression falling on us.

We call for decentralised and autonomous actions of all kinds, depending on what people feel to be the most appropriate to their local context. You’ll find below the political content we wish to give to these two days.

We are everywhere…

For centuries, people have used squats and autonomous spaces, either urban or rural, to take control of their own lives. They are a tool, a tactic, a practice, and a way for people to live out their struggles. For decades, squat movements across Europe and beyond have fought capitalist development, contributing to local struggles against destruction; providing alternatives to profit-making and consumer culture; running social centres and participatory activities outside of the mainstream economy. Demonstrating the possibilities for self-organising without hierarchy; creating international networks of exchange and solidarity. These networks have changed many lives, breaking out of social control and providing free spaces where people can live outside the norm.

Among other things, these places provide bases for meetings and projects, for the creation and distribution of subversive culture, for the non-monetary based exchange of goods, resources and knowledge, for experimenting with new ways of living, for collective debates, for recycling and construction, for agricultural activities, for the production of independent media.

Whether we speak of urban squats or of purchased land, of negotiated or re-appropriated rural land, of restored factories or self-built buildings, these spaces are refuges for rebels and outlaws, poor and homeless people, radical activists, illegal immigrants. Social centres are crucial to us as part of a movement for social change.

All over Europe, repressive agendas are being pushed by governments

They are attacking long-standing autonomous spaces such as the Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen, Koepi and Rigaer Straße in Berlin, EKH in Vienna and Les Tanneries in Dijon, squatted social centres in London and Amsterdam, Ifanet in Thessaloniki, etc. In France, squats have become a priority target for the police after the anti-CPE movement and the wave of actions and riots that happened during the presidential elections period. In Germany, many autonomous spaces have been searched and attacked before the G8 summit. In Geneva and Barcelona, two old and big squatting “fortresses”, the authorities have decided to try to put an end to the movement. Whereas it is still possible to occupy empty buildings in some countries, it has already become a crime in some others. In the countryside, access to land is becoming harder and communes face increasing problems from legislation on hygiene, security and gentrification by the bourgeoisie and tourists. All over Europe, independent cultures are being threatened.

Several months ago we saw running battles in the streets of Copenhagen and actions everywhere in Europe in an explosion of anger at the eviction of the Ungdomshuset social centre. Since then, and with a few other big resistance stories that happened over the last months, we’ve managed to renew the meaning of international solidarity.

We are motivated by the same passions, we feel the same determination, face a common enemy in repression, and are united across borders by our desire to build a world of equality and self-determination. As unaligned and ungovernable islands of uncontrolled freedom we want to continue to act in solidarity, and strengthen our international links, no matter how many kilometres there are between us.

What follows is a short synthesis of the decisions and projects coming out of the april2008 coordination meeting that took place in ‘Les Tanneries’, Dijon, on November 24-25th. The meeting was attended by some 120 people from 25 different countries.

mailing-lists and forums
The main discussion list is called april2008-coordination(at)squat.net, and there’s a number of other lists for working groups, all of which are mirrored on the april2008 forums: http://april2008.squat.net/forum/. If you want to join and take part, please do! Just send an introduction mail to april2008(at)squat.net.

agenda of public april2008 events
April2008 will be a mix of both surprise “not-announced” actions and public “announced-beforehand” events. There will be paper and digital versions of a program, so that people can join actions and activities in places where participation is welcomed and/or forces needed. The schedule will be edited early March, and available as a PDF. We invite you to send all your announcements to april2008@squat.net, so they can be published on the website and then summarized on the agenda.

Two possibilities for new meetings were proposed:
- May 2008, Berlin: it was proposed to meet some days ahead of Koepi’s days of action, so that people could stay for the actions if they wanted to. Various people were really enthousiastic about it, but some others were a lot more skeptical, given that having a meeting in Berlin in such context might not allow quiet in-depth debates, and the energy of the meetings might be swallowed by action dynamics or police pressure. This debate will be brought back to people in Berlin, who will decide if they wish to call for this meeting or not.
- October 2008, Barcelona: the proposal will be made at the Asamblea de Okupas de Barcelona (city-wide squatters’ assembly). Encounters might be followed by days of action or not, depending on the local context, the organizers’ choice, and the experience of the Berlin gathering.

Ideas for action
A lot of examples of possible actions have been mentioned as well as quite obvious possible common targets linked with speculation and private property management. Let’s make it clear, though, that there will be no april2008 official action guideline. Everything is possible. Join actions in other cities where forces will be needed if nothing happens at home! Though there is no worry about everyone’s local creativity, it can’t harm to state some of the tactics people have been mentioning, related to their recent local experiences: squatting something crazy and huge right in the town centre, organizing a mass action to occupy a building with the location announced in advance (as during the Copenhagen’s G13), targetting real estate agencies, blocking or removing their offices, locking bailifs inside their doors, squatting politician’s houses, organizing Reclaim The Streets parties against gentrification, creating fake newspapers about autonomous spaces and housing politics to distribute massively in bus/suburbs stations and around town, squatting land in the countryside, finding strength and people to open and keep squats in places where it never happened or where it became really difficult, to organize tourist visits of the cities showing all the houses evicted and the evil of contemporary urbanism, organizing solidarity actions (on consulates or targetted country companies…) for squats threatened of eviction in other countries, proposing open doors and open activities in an autonomous space, bringing the activities of an autonomous space outside in town (workshops, free-zone, hacklab, infoshop, gigs…), choosing a common enemy in various towns (as it was done by french squatters in 2005, with 17 decentralised actions on Socialist Party’s city councils and headquarters), following the dutch example of a white book of squatting, with stories of squats in every cities, electing the “bad landlord of the week”, occupying shops and supermarkets, disturbing official political debates and organizing your own discussion about the need for autonomous spaces, etc., etc.