The Berlin commune fights developers

Gerrard Winstanley tony at
Thu Dec 27 13:47:44 GMT 2007

Berlin Commune Fights Property Developers
Europe December 26, 2007, 1:41PM EST 

In what promises to be a volatile struggle in the German city, 
residents of the Köpi take a stand against capitalism's advance 
by Stefan Berg and Marcel Rosenbach 

They sat down together just like every week, but this time the 
mood was different: nervous, tense, but also a bit agitated. "It 
was as if we had just survived a battle," said one of the people 
who attended the meeting two weekends ago. 
The war comparison image is not that far-fetched. Nine cars and 
many trash containers had been set on fire in Berlin the night 
before. There had been an enormous police presence on the 
streets and more than 50 people were arrested. The tabloid Bild 
described it as an "anarchist war" right in the middle of Berlin's 
trendy Mitte district. 
The demonstration -- the topic of discussion at the meeting the 
next day -- was about "autonomous free space." Its purpose was 
to protest against the victory march of capitalism ("Smash 
Capitalism" was one of the slogans) that is changing the face of 
the cash-strapped German capital -- slowly, but visibly, 
especially in the former East Berlin districts of Mitte and 
Prenzlauer Berg. 
The location of the meeting was not without significance. The 
group had convened in the "Aquarium" meeting room in the 
building known as the Köpi, located at Köpenicker Strasse 137 
in Berlin's Mitte district. The Köpi is one of the self-defined "free 
spaces" that the violent protests had been all about. 
In 1990, it was one of the first buildings to be occupied by 
squatters in former East Berlin. Today, it is the most important 
radical left-wing residential project in the former city of squatters. 
The building has even been featured on postcards, thanks to a 
slogan painted in giant white letters on the outside wall: "There 
are no borders between peoples, only between the top and the 
Architecturally speaking, the Köpi is the surviving rear section 
and two side wings of a typical Berlin residential building with 
inner courtyards from the beginning of the 20th century. From the 
outside, it is in terrible condition. Next to the main building, the 
Köpi also has a lot for trailer homes and tents. 
But for residents and the large contingent of sympathizers with 
the radical left-wing movement, the Köpi is more than just a 
run-down old building. It is a symbol, a sort of last refuge for 
alternative lifestyles. 
The Köpi is self-organizing and run on communal principles. 
The plenary session every Sunday is the main administrative 
body. Participation is strictly limited to Köpi residents and 
representatives of the many cultural projects and bars that have 
found a home in the commune. Outsiders are barred from the 
meeting and mobile phones are prohibited -- for fear of 
surveillance by the domestic intelligence agencies, which keep a 
close eye on far-left activities in Germany. 
On the day after the demonstration, there was a roll call of sorts 
to see if any of the Köpi's residents had been among those 
arrested. It appeared that this was not the case, and the 
demonstration was chalked up as a success. The slogan "Köpi 
stays" featured on many of the placards the protestors were 
carrying, and a few young sympathizers had even dressed up as 
"Köpi Knights," complete with helmets and shields. 
The Köpi slogan has never been more topical. Since the spring, 
defending free space has taken on a very concrete meaning, 
namely preventing forcible eviction. The Köpi and two adjacent 
properties were auctioned off in a forced sale in May, under 
dubious circumstances and to an even more dubious buyer. 
Since then, officials at the State Office of Criminal Investigation 
(LKA) have observed increasing levels of violence within the 
Berlin anarchist community. During the course of the year, 111 
cars -- from Minis to luxury sedans -- have been torched, many of 
them company cars owned by industrial giants like Siemens or 
the German national railway company Deutsche Bahn. The 
authorities are convinced the perpetrators were members of the 
radical left-wing community.

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