Riot police clashed with 8,000 protesters in Hamburg over the eviction of a social centre in Hamburg on Saturday(21st). Barricades were built and petrol bombs hurled as locals took a stand against gentrification.
This was the culmination of a long running state campaign to shut down the Rote Flora (Red Flower) social centre. Originally one of the few undamaged buildings after the Second World War, The Rote Flora centre was squatted on the 1st November 1989. Over the years it became an alternative cultural centre and a hub for political and artistic endeavours. It was used as a convergence space during the anti-G8 protests in Germany in 2007. The centre hosts flea markets, parties and other events on a regular basis. It also holds meetings for leftist and anarcho movements. It stands for immigrant rights, anti-nationalism and the resistance of the privatisation of public spaces.
A demonstration had been called for the 21st of December “in solidarity with the Rote Flora squat, the Esso houses initiative, and for refugees’ right to stay." Last week the Esso social houses, home to a hundred people in Hamburg's district of St. Pauli, had already been evicted as part of Hamburg's rapid process of gentrification. The demo also highlighted the ongoing struggles for refugees in the city of Hamburg. Since the winter of 2012, more than three hundred African refugees have arrived in the city. They managed to escape from the conflict of the Libyan Revolution, made their way through Italy and eventually reached the German border. Hamburg was the epicentre on Saturday for defending social housing and refugees rights across Germany but demonstrations occurred in many other cities across the country.
The police operation kicked off with the arrival of a helicopter above, followed by a legion of riot cops who unprovoked and armed with water cannons, batons, tear gas and guns attacked the demonstrators. Defending the violence, policespokesman, Mirko Streiber said "There was a mood of aggression from the outset,"Not surprising perhaps - SchNEWS wonders how peaceably most readers would react to water canons, batons, tear gas and guns, surely testy and perhaps even a little edgy. There is footage showing the cops swarming the crowd of demonstrators and attacking them. According to activist reports the cops justified their attack by saying the "demonstration started too early.” “There was a massive use of teargas and water canons. A journalist from DPA got treated with a punch in the face by a cop when he showed him his press identification. People responded in kind with flying bricks, stones, bottles and a handful of petrol bombs. Many anarchists had travelled to Hamburg for the demo and were re-inforced by fans of the well-known anti-fascist football team St Pauli.
Demonstrators moved onto the defensive, building barricades. They managed to build barricades in several neighborhoods. Police tried to block the roads to kettle protesters but demonstrators resisted and the then rallied up crowd attacked a police station and dozens of banks thrown in for good measure. According to German activist Ewige Blumenkraft - "Momentum continued to build as running battles ensued between protesters and riot cops across the city that lasted well into the night. There was damage to police cars and windows were smashed in surrounding properties"
According to DW.DE, Germany's mainstream international broadcaster more than 100 police officers were "injured" with an unspecified number of protesters also "hurt". A statement by the organisers put the unspecified number closer to several hundred activists injured and 120 arrested plus 19 arrested so far suspected of breach of the peace; with 82 officers wounded and 15 of those taken to a hospital. Between 2,000 and 3,000 armed riot cops attacked the 8,000 demonstrators (including St Pauli fans as well as activists from all over Germany and further afield) who, in solidarity with refugees, had gathered to conserve the Rote Flora
Rote Flora activists began a campaign known as "Flora bleibt unverträglich". For updates on the recent events in Hamburg keep checking Enough is Enough. You can follow twitter feeds at: @florableibt
There are pictures of the police attacks on the 21/12/13 through the following links.