How can we join the fight against gentrification?
The most successful recent project in Prague began in a former lung clinic close to the city centre.
The building was desolate: full of trash and used syringes, posing a clear danger to the local community. Activists cleaned the place up and started to run a cultural centre, including a café, organizing educational courses, lectures, workshops, library and other activities there.
How did the state respond? They called the police to crack skulls — literally — and vacate the former lung clinic that had just started breathing again.
Fierce demonstrations and negotiations pushed the state authorities to allow activists to reopen their autonomous social centre ‘Klinika.’ And ever since, it has blossomed, organising a rich program of events.
But now, once again, state officials have decided to fight them. They are not putting millions into the reconstruction of the building. So, it will turn into offices for their bureaucrats. The days are numbered for Klinika.
There are, of course, many more empty and decaying buildings in Prague, like Šatovka, situated on a beautiful rocky valley in the city periphery. Squatters left the place two years ago after negotiations with the municipality, which had promised to make a good use of the building. However, Šatovka kept decaying for two more years, without any support to clear it or heat it. The talks with activists failed.
One obvious solution would be to allow activists to run another autonomous centre — at least until the town-hall can get its act together. But the authorities prefer calling the police to evict them. They could not get those who were on the roof, staying there in protest for almost a week amidst the February freeze. For their tenacity, they are now facing years in prison for having broken a law called: the right to the house.
This is not a unique situation in Europe. And at DiEM25, we must engage with the challenge of gentrification and the use of urban space. What is your experience? Can we really join fights with local activists pushing back gentrification? If we develop good answers to these questions, DiEM25 might find many valuable allies at grassroots level.
Lukas is a member of DiEM25 based in the Czech Republic. If you would like to help establish a thematic DSC on the issue of Gentrification, please get in touch with Lukas.
Photograph credit: Pepik Hipik