The fear of contagion: Okupation and the quashing of dissent

News of an okupation echoes loudly in portugal, for the event is today rare and the okupy movement is comparatively modest and weak (in comparison to the neighbour spain, for instance).  Legislation in the country makes eviction relatively easy and authorities are quick to act, and this in the wake of weak social movements which in other contexts render interventions by the State more difficult.  If the longest surviving okupied social centre is the 17 year old C.O.S.A. of Setúbal, it is now threatened with eviction, due to a legal action by the owners of the building, their appetites no doubt being wetted by the exploding real-estate values in the city.  Otherwise, however significant other recent okupations have been (most notably, Es.Col.A da Fontinha), they have also all been short lived. 

On the 14th of October, an okupation and the creation of a new social centre (Espaço Okupado Travêssa) was announced in the northern city of Porto, only to be evicted on the 16th. (Indymedia)

If we speak of the event, it is first in solidarity with those who endeavoured to create the space and who suffered the violent police action of the 16th of October.  It is also to remind us of the importance of okupied social centres, as expressions of direct action and mutual aid, as schools of self-management, as points of confluence for broader struggles, and as protests against the reign of State supported Capital; all of which pushes authorities to crush these initiatives as quickly as possible.  We publish below, in translation,  the original statement of the Espaço Okupado Travêssa.  May the example be repeated …

We decided to occupy a space that had been abandoned years ago, where we could manage ourselves, without hierarchies or delegations, without asking for authorisation from institutions and without negotiating with them, thereby rejecting any type of authority as an obstacle to free individual and collective expression, and to free social relations.

At a moment when Porto is devoured by pharaonic works of social cleansing, it is fundamental to affirm that we don’t want to be elegant and servile Portuenses, whose only function is to be part of a menu to be consumed by real-estate companies, tourist agencies desirous of a clean and picturesque environment, stripped bare of any social conflict.  For this reason, we chose to organise ourselves on the basis of the contradictions that emerge from the profound daily changes of our city.

Through the practice of occupation, we want to express a different way of seeing life and human relationships, breaking with the corporate logic of profit, with national and international vultures guided and counselled by local hyenas who legitimate them and who succeed in imposing them in all the corners of life.  We want to self-manage our lives, our spaces, our necessities, in a way different from the canons of the current system.

And we want to retake our neighbourhoods whose people are, everyday, brutally expelled and swept away by the factory of tourism.  Let this occupation also be a response that produces a creative conflict against the dominant ratification of the city as shop window, as false, made for quick and temporary entertainment.

We want a space where we can address debates and film projections on the themes that are most dear to us, to pursue questions such as the anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-authoritarian critiques, to organise struggles outside political parties, labour unions, or other types of institutional organisations, whose existence serve more to whitewash legal theft than to struggle for its victims.

We want to experiment collectively on the basis of the values of solidarity and sharing, reading books in a library open to all, practicing sports or watching a film without the price of a ticket, celebrating and sharing ideas and practices in horizontal assemblies … moments that in this capitalist world can find no space.  A laboratory where any person can realise their projects and ideas freely.

We want to involve the whole neighbourhood and the city with these activities, through solidarity and mutual aid, but without any charitable intention.  So that this space is, in other words, returned to the collectivity, freed from uselessness and abandonment; a place where there is no profit to be made.

To the city designated “European Best Destination”, with a beautified centre that hides the daily poverty of its people, we want to oppose another city, built of solidarity, social conflict and cultural initiatives, beyond the capitalist logic that this system wishes to impose upon us.

Each musical note from a load speaker at a concert, each word pronounced in an assembly, each bit of energy spent in the construction of an occupied space has as its objective to support the struggles of those who imagine a society without prisons, physical or mental.  For this reason, this occupation could not but send greetings of solidarity to the C.O.S.A. (Casa Ocupada de Setúbal Autogestionada) which at this moment celebrates 17 years of existence, while the noose of eviction tightens, as well as greetings and a prosperous future to the À da Maxada and the Assembleia de Ocupação de Lisboa.

A self-managed and occupied space does not sell dreams of freedom – it tries to materialise them and expand them.

What we take is simply a part of what belongs to us!



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