(written by Refugesupportserbia and Noborderserbia)
(prevod na naški sledi uskoro)
Friday, 16 of september 2016 – The demolition company “Mis Mag” came to destroy this building that had become a home for many of the people passing through Belgrade. The employees arrived in the morning around 12:00 pm to find out that the structure they were assigned to tear down was the living space of around 30 people. Regardless, the two workers at the site had a demolition contract and were there to complete their job. They asked everyone to leave, when some decided to stay and defend the building they called the police. Many who had been sleeping in the building were never given any warning of the demolition beforehand – they were confronted in the afternoon with a big blue excavator and told to exit the building. Many had possessions inside that they needed to gather and still others who were not present at the building at the time were not even aware of the demolition.
After the cops arrived, some men decided to remain in the building to try to protect the space they had been occupying for months. They were joined by support from local and international initiatives in the city. Following about an hour of discussion between the various individuals involved in the situation, the excavator began to move to tear down the first wall of the structure while the police simultaneously attempted to remove everyone from the building. Around ten people were still inside the building when the first wall began to come down. The situation became clearly dangerous for everyone involved and everyone subsequently exited the area, helpless to stop the destruction.
“I was there when they started to destroy it. For them maybe it was just an old structure which needed to be destroyed but for me it was home and a safe place especially in cold and rainy nights. I couldn’t do anything to stop [it] because I am just a refugee. The only thing that I did at that time I hoped that they will never destroy this building but they did and I was just hopeless. With [the] building they also destroy my memories and they make lots of boys like me homeless. I wish someday they feel the meaning of homeless. Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Person that has been living inside the destroyed building
The eviction and demolition is symbolically important as it represents one more disappointment and challenge for people on the move; one more action by the municipality of Belgrade to interrupt attempts to have a dignified existence in the city. The destruction of this first building was the continuation of a constant need to move on from sleeping place to sleeping place.
As always we can see the everyday racism and the dominance that is revealed in the reaction of NGOs and the press involved in this incident. The people who were sleeping in the destroyed buildings were not being asked anything, not even addressed. The NGOs and police and also the press representatives as many times before, objectify the squatters because they are migrants. They show them as passive beings that can not decide themselves – so in this racist logic, the people can not have been the ones that decided to stay in that self organized housing-structure by themselves. This decision is attributed to some influence from “outsiders,” like it happened in many migrant-actions before. As usual, various forms of decision-making and self-organization among the migrant communities are not recognized or taken seriously by the press, NGOs and officials.
The demolition of the building is not a stand-alone issue. Rather it is part of a much larger plan for the city of Belgrade. Currently there is a big investment “project” taking place with the name of “Belgrade Waterfront.” This project, one which ignores public opinion, represents the gentrification of the city – lots of land was purchased to make room for a remodeled city area, complete with burgeois hotels and the largest shopping mall of the Balkans. Many locals have expressed their opposition to the Waterfront Project; a project that puts the interest of capitalists and investors before the needs and the will of people who live in Belgrade and in all Serbia. This international investment project is facing ongoing resistance from various groups of people.
Therefore, the people sleeping in these self organized shelters, are not only subjects to a migration policy that forces people to let the police and humanitarian workers control every step they take – but by their occupation of abandoned buildings they are also seen as an obstacle for the capitalist construction side of the Belgrade Waterfront Project.
As a conclusion is to say, that in spite of the stronger controls, people will continue to self-organize and be in solidarity with each other. The Belgrade Waterfront Project and the resistance against it shows, how important it is to unite the struggle for decent housing for everyone, the struggle for the right to the city and all common goods with the fight for unconditional freedom of movement and stay.
Evict the rich! Squat the world!
We need practical solidarity, fighting for the freedom of movement and the houses for those who live inside.
self-organized squat next to the train station in Belgrade – destroyed for the the sake of the Waterfront -Project