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article imagePolice clear Berlin squat, symbol of city's radicalism

By AFP     Oct 9, 2020 in World

Police cleared one of Berlin's few remaining squats on Friday, as a symbol of the German capital's free-spirited ideals faces the reality of soaring rents and gentrification.

Berlin mobilised hundreds of law enforcement officials to evict residents of the "Liebig34" site in Friedrichshain, a hip part of former East Berlin where property prices have risen sharply.

But far from the street battles feared by Berlin authorities, the evictions were relatively peaceful.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, blocks of abandoned houses in the east of the capital were taken over by students, young people, artists and activists. Some of the squats were subsequently legalised as housing projects.

The self-described "anarchist-queer-feminist" building on the corner of Liebigstrasse, with a facade covered with graffiti and banners, has been offering shelter to about 40 women, trans and intersex people since 1999.

A bar and a self-managed cultural centre helped the collective to raise part of the money needed to pay the rent.

Far from the street battles feared by Berlin authorities  the evictions were relatively peaceful
Far from the street battles feared by Berlin authorities, the evictions were relatively peaceful
Tobias SCHWARZ, AFP

But investor Gijora Padovicz, who owns the building, decided in 2018 not to renew the lease for Liebig34.

Faced with the residents' refusal to leave their homes, he filed a lawsuit, which he won, culminating in Friday's eviction.

Police removed residents one by one from the four-storey building, an emblem of Berlin's fading "poor but sexy" image, the marketing slogan of the city's former mayor Klaus Wowereit.

Protesting against the police action, Anna Mai, whistle in hand on the edge of the police cordon, said Liebig34 was "a symbol of the diversity of this city which shouldn't only belong to the rich. Berlin is dying".

"It goes against human rights to throw people out on to the street in the middle of a pandemic, when they cannot pay their rent," Moritz Heusinger, lawyer for the Liebig34 collective, told AFP.

"They are becoming homeless."

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