Re-squat Casablanca!

  • Posted on: 28 September 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>Broader autonomous movements include the social center movement which focuses on the state neoliberal capitalist politics and policies that exclude ordinary people from their rights and access to various resources. Autonomy as defined by the squatter activists is a defiance of ideology that is rooted in ‘capitalism’ and ‘patriarchy’. In this light, the squatter activists believe that there is a need for deconstruction of classical and neoliberal models of eco-development that brutally colonizes ordinary people and slash them of their rights by the power exerted through markets, institutions and state apparatuses. Some of what we experience now happening through austerity policies in Greece, Italy, Poland and elsewhere. It is this social-construction of power that is subverted by squatter activists who re-use, re-create, re-construct and re-produce spaces that have always existed but not used and hence have existed in vacuum as it’s functionability, value, integrity and creativity have been diminished by a handful of elites.

Squatting on any empty space/spot has shown how creatively a space can be used and managed by the much-needed populations (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEEDmNvYUY&feature=youtu.be). </td><td><img title="we all have needs" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/eyescoffee.jpg"></td></tr><...

Social centers, therefore, don't misuse or abuse space but they nourish creativity and identity adding meaning to any empty place. Social centers are free, self-managed (people-managed) autonomous spaces that construct and preserve people’s social, political, economic and cultural needs in a horizontal fashion through open public debates; discussions on state/immigration policies and peoples’ rights; through theatres and plays; or through any social gatherings and various other activities such distribution of medical supplies, books, clothes and alike. Most importantly, social centers are self-financed, they are not reliant on state funds but create their own monies through selling their products, through low-priced foods/drinks or through social events. Well, those who manage social centers do not earn wages or salaries through these activities but raise monies for the maintenance of the center and the activities. In other words, such autonomous spaces provide an alternative to the populations who struggle to endure exclusion, precarious job crisis, or other societal crises, like the economic crisis of our present times. Social centers represent an alternative way of life and social engagement that disengage them from the state through their politics and engagement.

My intense hankerings to sought for ways in which undocumented immigrant workers could construct an alternative identity or integrate in the foreign lands thereby reduce their precarity connected me with a fabulous group of squatter activist researchers, in New York, February 2012, through a four-day lecture and discussion series on experiences, challenges and strategies adopted by them. In order to serve my appetite and understanding of various social center activities, I traveled to Madrid in May 2012 and stayed close to two squats Tabakalara and CSOA Casablanca in Lavapies, Madrid. At the time of my visit, Casablanca was celebrating its two-year anniversary. Casablanca connected with youths, immigrants groups, young mothers, students, and people-of-color. This diverse group engaged with Casablanca to satisfy their very disparate needs – of course, this transformed Casablanca which was an un-used spot for three years until it was converted into a social center, a center for socialization. Casablanca was not just any space or building made of bricks like every other building but a place where the identities of the users were constructed. For two and half years, Casablanca has been a meeting place that was open to ‘everyone’ in the Lavapies neighborhood and city of Madrid. Here by ‘everyone’ I emphasize people-of-color, different classes and ethic groups, and the socially-alienated people. So for those who gave Casablanca an identity and worked hard to create a safe space in return got their identity constructed. Casablanca was a space for convergence through solidarity, mutual-support, self-management, horizontality, and autonomy. Casablanca collaborated over 30 collectives and developed projects related to creating critical thinking. The various activities that were carried out in Casablanca were: educational [such as, free learning projects with children aged two to six years ("Tartaruga"), cooperative projects between parents for the care of infants under one year ("Common House"), Spanish teaching projects for immigrants, reading workshops, and more than 10,000 books were donated during the weekly camps ("BiblioSol") [and textbooks that were exchanged benefited more than 200 people]; alternative vocational and cultural workshops [such as sewing, construction, bicycle repair, silkscreen printing, photography, computer; art, culture and personal health; theater workshops ("Timbuktu", "Impro theater"), dance, yoga, queer culture ("Queer Tango Workshop"), swing, hip-hop, film (Casablanca Cinema)]; and social developmental [projects to support people suffering from HIV ("HIV Madrid Critique"), a legal aid office to migrant groups, women's groups, the Office of Okupación Madrid, theater group ("Dystopia" )]. All these projects provided alternatives to consumer-model based on solidarity, mutual-aid, horizontality and integrity such as free book/garments store, consumer groups networks ("Tomarte Rojo", "BAH"), urban gardening, vegan dining, bike shop. It is hard to list the usefulness of Casablanca to the people who depended on this space and, for me, it’s amazing to note how much a space could offer or could grown just over two and half years.

Wednesday September 19, 2012, 8 AM, Casablanca was illegally evicted by state thugs. Several people present at the time of the eviction claim that two youths were hit by the cops (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rstSMKteFac&feature=related). This was a forced eviction, illegal in nature. The magistrate and Provincial Court of Madrid filed this as a criminal case - “It is illegal to reopen the case, and it is illegal we have not been notified of the decision to evict”. It has been stated by a prominent member of Casablanca that “… it has been a very strange eviction because our legal case was won by us many months ago and the owner had no chances to claim again for the property. We did not receive any notice about the new demand, except a brief note in June which was replied adequately. It was illegal no to be noticed in advance of the eviction. We suspect that there are political motivations behind this fast eviction. The thing is that there is a call to surround the Parliament the next September 25 and one of the group organizers were holding their meetings at Casablanca. In the past few days, some people were arrested and identified by the police due to their participation in this forthcoming action. We feel really sad because Casablanca had got to be the main venue for alternative politics and culture in the inner centre of Madrid. Today some text books for primary and secondary school were going to be exchanged and freely distributed among needed people. And thousands of books and materials from the Sol Camp are archived in the now fortress building. It's a shame but “we shall overcome”.” (see http://www.diagonalperiodico.net/Casablanca-es-desalojada-seis-dias.html)

Considering the usefulness of Casablanca to the people of Lavapies community, if it cannot be re-squatted it would be another luxury home for the elites as it is owned now by the builder Monteverde SL. Keep in mind, that this building before it was put to used for the people in need was closed for three years and all this was happening during the time of the housing bubble and economic crisis. A member of Casablanca state that “this company processes involved in corruption (Operation Malaya II), is part of the real culprits of the current political-economic context. Therefore, the proposed Casablanca has the legitimacy that they lack” (see http://www.miguelangelmartinez.net/?The-necessary-squats).

What I am vehemently underlining here is that the activities that were carried out in Casablanca were not ‘illegal’, the people who used the space were not ‘illegal’, the activities were not ‘illegal’ but productive and the building was well-taken care of. Reviewing the state of affairs, the way Casablanca has been forcibly and unlawfully appropriated from the people which rightfully belonged to them, should be returned to the people. Because these autonomous groups, the users of the space re-created this building (CSOA Casablanca) and given it an identity, integrity, a character, and a meaning which the elite builder did not, in the past. If Casablanca is not returned to the people another spot would be opened to a handful of elites through Monteverde SL. Casablanca should be returned to the people!

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