Berlin does not yet have a new government. Two weeks after the election, the SPD, the Greens, and the FDP are negotiating about forming a “traffic light” coalition. But no need to worry: the machinery for throwing people out of their homes continues to function normally.
The Köpi-Platz at Köpenicker Straße 133-136 is a kind of caravan park. People live in improvised mobile homes in what is called a Wagenburg or Wagenplatz in German. Around 50 people have been living there for decades. The lot was occupied in 1990, at the same time as the building next door known as the Köpi, which remains Berlin’s biggest squat. The building is not under immediate threat, but the park is set to be evicted this Friday.
The Köpi has faced eviction several times since 1990. A hip-hop song called Köpi bleibt (Köpi will stay!) is from 2007. I felt old when I looked that up. I remember going to demonstrations in defence of the Köpi 15 years ago. For a young commie, the Köpi had concerts, movies, workshops and lots of non-commercial space to hang out.
Back in 2006-07, I remember feeling defeatist: too bad that the Köpi will be gone within a few months! The city government was ready to evict the building in the interests of a realty speculator. Yet the house project is still there. Resistance works! I have no idea why the eviction was put on ice. We’ll have to wait until after the revolution, when we can access state archives, to know for sure.
Does it still count as freedom of expression if you can only express yourself behind a heavily armed cop?
Personally, I strongly suspect it had to do with Ungdomshuset. Copenhagen’s most famous squat was evicted in early 2007, and the city experienced days of the biggest riots in decades. I imagine Berlin politicians were wondering: if tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Copenhagen, what is going to happen in Kreuzberg?!? So the plans were cancelled — the concrete hulk standing next to the Köpi, an abandoned construction site, is a monument to this victory.
Now, the Köpi-Platz will not go without a fight either. On Saturday evening, 1,500 people demonstrated from the “Dorfplatz,” the centre of the left scene in Rigaer Straße, to Köpi. If you were hanging out in the neighbourhood, though, you would have seen nothing except hordes police in black armour. They surrounded the demonstration on all sides, and thus certainly violated the freedom to assembly guaranteed in the German constitution. Does it still count as freedom of expression if you can only express yourself behind a heavily armed cop?
As my trade union reported, the police also attacked journalists, because they don’t have much respect for the freedom of the press either.
The demonstration took place exactly one year after the eviction of the Liebig34, the anarcha-feminist house project just off Rigaer Straße. For the more than 30 years that it was occupied, Liebig34 provided housing to dozens of people at a time. Now, it stands empty, protected by security guards. A developer (whose illegal practices and connections to the mafia have been widely reported) is sitting on the property, and will probably tear down the empty hulk in a decade or so to make way for luxury condos.
And then, that new building will likely also stand empty. Just look at the Living Levels building not far away — the white tower better known as the Death Strip Condo, after a portion of the Berlin Wall was illegally removed for its construction. Any time I walk past, day or night, the lights are off and the curtains are wide open. As far as I can tell, not a single person lives there. These so-called “apartments” are just capital investments for the very wealthy, which they can also use as an occasional hotel room.
The taz has reported on the series of dodgy shell companies that own the Wagenplatz. Köpi’s lawyer is arguing that court documents have a false signature from Yervand Chukhajyan, who is technically the CEO of the company but has zero online footprint and refused to appear at court. The taz writes that he appears be a straw man for speculator Siegfried Nehls of the Sanus AG. Nehls has been investigated for defrauding construction companies. The mayor of the city of Zossen in Brandenburg has accused the conglomerate of failing to pay at least €3.2 million in taxes.
The city is nonetheless going to pay millions for a police operation this Friday to subsidise further reality speculation.
At the moment, Berlin still has a “left-wing” government made up of the SPD, the Greens, and the Left Party. All these parties campaigned for lower rents. So why are they spending money to destroy people’s housing?
As was the case with the Liebig34 one year ago, the Senate is claiming that they have no influence over the Polizei Berlin — this is all, supposedly, up to the courts. But this is nothing new for the “red-red-green” government: they also had the anarchist bar Syndikat evicted. The SPD and the Greens have long been sponsored by realty speculators — and Die Linke, which tries to present itself as a party of renters, has also been known to evict poor people in the interest of the construction mafia.
The experience of 2007 shows that militant resistance can work. The key is to get enough people on the street this Friday to make an eviction impossible, or at the very least prohibitively expensive. Lots of information about what to do on Tag X — i.e. this Friday — is available on the Köpi website. A victory here would shift the balance of power in the city towards everyone who needs a place to live.
p.s. my union, ver.di, has its massive headquarters right across the street. I would expect any union to support working-class people defending their homes against eviction. But today the junge Welt reported that the union bureaucrats are collaborating with the police to keep the street clear on Friday. This is not what we pay our dues for!
Nathaniel Flakin is working on an anticapitalist Berlin guide book, including a chapter about squats in Kreuzberg with a stop at the Köpi. It will be published by Pluto Press in April 2022.