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During the past couple of weeks a wave of fullscale protest and direct action has swept the major northern Portuguese town of Oporto. The popular outcry is the result of the violent eviction of the project Es.CoL.A , aka “Espacio Colectivo Autogestionado" (or "Self Managed Space"- in English) from their abandoned school. Although these protests are serious about fighting City Hall’s injustice they are also a community affair, filled with plenty of music and children.
Last Thursday, 19th April, City Hall decided to violently evict Es.Col.A, leading to three arrests.In response, last Wednesday (25th April) - the same day of the national celebration of the 1974 Carnation Revolution against their fascist dictatorship- thousands took the streets and re-occupied the school. However, the next day police promptly closed it down once again, this time destroying essential building features.
Es.Col.A emerged on April 2011, with the occupation of a 5-year abandoned school near a poor community in Alto da Fontinha, Oporto. The forgotten building was occupied by a group of active young citizens in order to return education and teaching to the site. It began with music lessons, books and toys for the children in the neighbourhood and gatherings with the locals on special occasions. Since then, the project gained a life of it's own- numerous activities started up as the number of people joining increased. The self-managed school has been offering a wide range of social, cultural and educational activities to young and old.
To name a few, the activities include cooking skills, theatre plays, film screenings, music lessons, yoga, lectures, bike workshops, and so on. The list is endless as everyone one participates with what it can offer. After just one month of its occupation they were evicted on the grounds that future projects are being designed for the forgotten space. This only made the resistance stronger with all the surrounding community backing up the Es.CoL.A project due to the direct benefits of the self-managed school in the community. The pressure was such that the Mayor gave the movement a temporary lease of the building, for now...
The building itself may no longer exist but its idea is more alive than ever! Assemblies outside the school and outside the City Hall are frequent and workshops have been taking place on a daily basis on the street outside the school, even sometimes taken to City Hall's street. In addition the project has begun to inspire the whole country propelling in solidarity two new initiatives. On 25th April, in Coimbra, a long forgotten field was transformed into an allotment, aka The Gardens of April. In only one day, under pouring rain, the site had been cleaned and prepared to receive seeds. In the same day, in Lisbon, an abandoned house has also been occupied and although eviction is expected new ideas are starting to be implemented.
Es.CoL.A shares many values with the global Occupy movement. A member of Es.Col.A summarizes it perfectly for SchNEWS: “ For the future, Es.Col.A aims to keep activities running as well as enabling this idea to grow and spread throughout society. We are propelling discussion that goes way beyond the framework of a social project. It intends to create alternative ways for people to engage in self-management of the surrounding spaces. It is a form of direct citizenship based on an autonomous and egalitarian organisation, thus opposing the conformist attitude of accepting certain ways of living imposed by a non-representative administrative power. It is an attempt to clear the path for a new social organizational paradigm.”
To support the Es.Col.A you can sign a petition online.
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