Squatting, Cambridge and Berlin

Cambridge: squatters take over the empty building earmarked by Tesco for a new supermarket on Mill Road. They tidy up the place, start tango classes and roller-derby sessions. They get on well with at least some of the neighbours, and even the Evening News is sympathetic. Police pop in, check no criminal law is being broken, and leave again. Everyone drinks a lot of tea.

Berlin: Leftist groups call action days for autonomous spaces. On Tuesday, 200 people force their way into an empty building. The police are there within 3 hours, and from then on everybody knows the script….The squatters set off fireworks and throw bottles at the cops. The police blowtorch their way in and clear the building. That night radicals run riot through the city, torching a dozen cars.

I think I prefer the Cambridge version.

ETA: The odd thing is that Berlin’s squats do act as social centres, in a way I’ve almost never seen in the UK. The art exhibition I mentioned a few posts ago? That’s in a building squatted 37 years ago. Other squatted buildings function as art galleries, concert venues, and general social spaces. Admittedly they cater disproportionately (but by no means exclusively) to the young, poor and dredlocked, and their legal status has generally been normalized over the years – but, despite appearances to the contrary, the berlin squatter scene isn’t just angry punks looking for trouble.

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