Tag Archives: housing rights

The Chronicles of Primitive Accumulation: Garages and Dorms versus the Smolny

http://socsopr.ru/news/garazhi_i_obshhagi_protiv_smolnogo

On the morning of November 16, a column of more than a dozen cars invaded the square outside the Smolny [Petersburg city hall], their drivers honking their horns in a deafening manner. Simultaneously, people bearing placards and banners began converging on the pedestrian island in the center of the square. Many of them wore the orange helmets and bright-colored vests of construction workers. Journalists bolted towards them, joined by the stunned policemen who guard the residence of bourgeois dictatorship on Dictatorship of the Proletariat Square.  With the support of activists from the Center for Workers Mutual Aid (TsVR), members of Rubezh (“Stand” or “Border”), a union of garage owners, and residents of Petersburg dormitories protested against the lawlessness of business structures and the corrupt city bureaucracy.

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Parnassus and the Celestials

The garage owners and dorm residents decided to act in concert because the problems they face are quite similar: both groups are being robbed and deprived of what little they have — rooms in dorms and garages in a garage co-op.  And this is being done by major corporations that possess gigantic resources and official protection.

Just like Khimki outside of Moscow, the outlying Petersburg quarter of Parnas (“Parnassus”) has become a hotspot on the map of the city in recent months. This is not a metaphor: a war really has flared up there, with battles, barricades, and marauders. Everything began in 2007, when the administration of the city’s Vyborgsky District sold the land where garage co-ops Parnas-1 and Parnas-2 are located to Glavstroi, a construction corporation owned by the well-known oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The land was sold without encumbrances − that is, as if the marsh that had been there before the garages were built were still there. However, in fact there were nine thousand garages located there. While the district administration did not extend its rental contract with the co-ops, which are legal entities, this decision did not take into account the property of physical persons, the garage owners, who naturally sought compensation payments in the courts. The courts turned them down. That was when the garage owners formed Rubezh, which in 2009 fended off an attack on Parnas-4, and has carried out several vociferous mass actions in 2010.

The Last Stand

In late October, the conflict grew into a full-fledged confrontation. Despite promises of a “moratorium” by the authorities, unfree immigrant laborers torn down Parnas-1, aided and guarded by police, OMON riot police, and mafia thugs. Heavy construction equipment was used to destroy the garages, along with the cars and other belongings inside them. The things that survived this attack were openly stolen. Here is how one witness described this bacchanalia:

After using police and the OMON to disperse the garage owners, the district administration tried to keep aloof and gave the co-op over to wholesale pillage. No fewer than a thousand immigrant workers are laboring there round the clock to haul away the scrap metal. They cut up the metal, load it onto carts, and then haul it away in banged-up GAZelle trucks. At night, they work with headlamps attached to their heads… The gates are guarded by immigrant mafia toughs, who admit people onto the grounds of the co-op for a bribe of 5,000 rubles [approx. 117 euros]. [Ethnic] Russian marauders who arrived were beaten up and had the tires on their GAZelle slashed. A garage owner who got onto the grounds of the co-op and tried to drive marauders away from the remains of his garage was also beaten up. In these conditions, where the authorities are invulnerable, people’s rage is directed against immigrants… Both the inevitability of conflict and its utter senselessness and pointlessness are obvious… The actions of the Vyborgsky District administration have led to an exacerbation of ethnic hatred and the risk of inter-ethnic clashes.

At present, the battle for Parnas-2 continues. On November 8, the garage owners built barricades and managed to repel the first attack. People’s despair is growing, however. The situation has been pushed to the limit, and spokespeople for Rubezh confess that it might get out of control at any moment. The inaction of the authorities, especially Governor Matviyenko, becomes more of a provocation with every passing day.

Norms for Dorms

Residents of former industry-sponsored and institutional dormitories are one of the most disadvantaged categories of laborers in Russia. When the organizations that used these dorms became private firms in the nineties, these residential spaces were privatized along with them, despite a ban on this procedure. For a long time people had no idea that their dwellings, which had turned from temporary to permanent, belonged not to the city, but to their capitalist owners. However, after the term during which they could have legally challenged these privatization deals ran out, dorm residents were subjected to blackmail and terror on the part of the new owners, who, stopping at nothing, began forcing residents to sign one-sided rental agreements. Those who either did not want to pay or could not pay were told to hit the streets.

Not everyone evacuated the dorms with bundles and suitcases in hand, however. Many people took to the streets with placards and banners. At present, a pressure group that unites residents of several Petersburg dorms (including the dorms located at Ilyushina, 15; Peterhof Highway, 73; Pilotov, 13; Podvoiskogo, 46 and 48; and on Garkavogo Street and in Pionerstroi. These people demand that residents not be evicted unless they are provided with alternative housing that meets the social norms for Petersburg and the Leningrad Region; that a permanent commission consisting of city officials, dorm resident pressure groups, and dorm owners be formed to solve the problem; and that a program for defending the housing rights of citizens residing in dorms be adopted. On November 8, as the garage owners were building their barricades at Parnas, the dorm residents picketed the city’s housing committee. Several days later, at an assembly of TsVR activists, these two groups decided to unite their efforts.

The Struggle Continues

Insofar as Petersburg authorities systematically violate freedom of assembly, having practically closed the greater part of the city center to demonstrations and pickets, the protest action outside the Smolny took the form of a flashmob. Aside from garage owners and dorm residents, it was planned and carried out by activists from TsVR and such leftist organizations as Socialist Resistance, DSPA, and RKRP (Russian Communist Workers Party). As usual, the protesters were supported by independent local legislative deputy Vladimir Fyodorov, thanks to whose intervention (and, possibly, Allah’s, insofar as significant numbers of police had been dispatched to monitor celebrations of Eid al-Adah (Kurban Bayram), which took place the same day) arrests were avoided. Despite the fact that the protest was almost spontaneous and for obvious reasons had been planned in secret, it was covered by journalists from Petersburg TV-100 and other media outlets. The authorities have reacted to the protest with their trademark cynicism. Commenting on the conflict at Parnas, Dmitry Kurakin, chair of the city’s state property committee, said, “Citizens, the owners of the garages, should bear the expenses for disassembling and disposing of their own garages. We are not going to free them from these costs. There are no plans to compensate them monetarily.” We should memorize this quotation. This is the answer that laborers will give to the Deripaskas and Prokhorovs when the red banner is raised over the Smolny and the oligarchs began to crowd outside, demanding the return of their nationalized business empires. The struggle continues.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Comrade M. for bringing the inserted video and this article to our attention. Photo courtesy of Socialist Resistance.

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Filed under activism, film and video, immigration, leftist movements, protests, Russian society, urban movements (right to the city)

Call for Solidarity against Anti-Homeless Legislation in Hungary

Dear Friends,

We are writing to you as members of the Hungarian homeless rights advocacy group called The City Is for All in which homeless, formerly homeless, and non-homeless people work together for housing rights and social justice.

A draft law recently proposed by the Ministry of Interior would allow local authorities to “expel homeless people from public spaces” and to sanction “sleeping on the streets”.

We have an ongoing campaign against this proposed legislation, and we need your help.


Please help us in letting the Minister of the Interior know that the adequate response to homelessness is housing, and not police harassment.

Please send the following statement (or your own personal views) to the Ministry of the Interior [ugyfelszolgalat@bm.gov.hu] with a Bcc copy to our organization [avarosmindenkie@gmail.com].

Dear Mr. Pintér,


I heard  about a draft law recently proposed by the Ministry of Interior that would allow local authorities to “expel homeless people from public spaces” and to sanction “sleeping on the streets”.

I am deeply concerned that the Hungarian government is taking punitive measures to respond to the problem of homelessness – measures that, by their very nature, are incapable of alleviating poverty, social exclusion and housing deprivation. The reasons for rough sleeping are to be found in the structures of inequality and in the inadequacies of social policies. As a result, these are the spheres in which change is necessary if we want to put an end to homelessness. Increasing the social housing stock and the level of housing assistance, and radically improving the condition of homeless shelters would  also be possible progressive steps.

For all these reasons, I ask you to withdraw the proposed legislation and stop the criminalization of homeless people.

Yours sincerely,


Please include your organizational affiliation into the email, and feel free to forward this call for others.
Thanks a lot for your kind help!
Greetings from Budapest,

The City is for All

A Város Mindenkié rendszeres műsora a Muzsikus rádión minden kedden 16 és 17 óra között hallható. www.muzsikusradio.hu
A műsorok letölthetők blogunkról is: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu
_________
As always, Chtodelat News gratefully acknowledges receipt of this appeal from the Reclaiming Spaces mailing list:

http://www.reclaiming-spaces.org
Address for messages to the list:
reclaiming-spaces@listi.jpberlin.de
info-page, access to archive, (un)subscribe
https://listi.jpberlin.de/mailman/listinfo/reclaiming-spaces


Visit their blogs:
http://www.reclaiming-spaces.org Sign the statement to the G20 in response to the global financial & housing crisis
http://www.reclaiming-spaces.org/crisis/archives/8

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Support Roma Housing Struggle in Belgrade, Serbia

Solidarity Appeal: Support Roma Housing Struggle in Belgrade, Serbia

http://www.youtube.com/user/pravonanaseljetv

Today, Roma organizations and allies in Belgrade, Serbia are organizing a demonstration in response to the demolition of the Roma community’s housing units in Block 67 situated in the New Belgrade. The violent and surprising move to destroy people’s homes and an entire community was organized by the City of Belgrade authorities with the support of Belgrade City Mayor Dragan Djilas. Your solidarity is needed!

sequence-2On Friday morning (April 3rd), the forcible and violent eviction of Roma families living in the Block 67 neighborhood began. The residents of this community say that the demolitions began during a surprise invasion beginning at six in the morning led by heavy police presence and special forces. Police brutality resulted in an emergency evacuation of two women from the community. Peoples’ entire belongings were left behind in the ruins. A part of the community is now spending the night in front of the City Council. They are without warm clothes, blankets, food, and medicine (many people had to leave them behind). Residents say that during the day unidentified youth on motorcycles were provoking and instilling fear in the community.

In the meantime, no alternative housing has been secured by the city government, nor is anyone taking care of these needs. Belgrade’s Mayor Djilas announced that it is “necessary that they be removed from that area so that we can build a new boulevard necessary for the development of the city, and holding of events being planned in the future.” He also threatened to deploy police forces to remove any protesters attempting to bloc the streets. These actions were preceded by a media campaign that justified the expulsion of Roma living in New Belgrade under “security” and “city image” considerations in the lead up to the Universiade 2009. Through his statements, Mayor Dragan Djilas has contributed to the fascist relationship towards Roma citizens and justified the destruction of their homes. As an “alternative” the city officials are suggesting to remove the building of a fence around the community so that “the city’s deformities won’t be seen during the Universiade.”

Does this mean that the Universiade will be paid for with human lives if necessary?

Our fellow citizens who have been left without home are determined to fight for their rights, their right to life, freedom, housing and work.

Today (Saturday) at 1pm a protest is being organized against the brutal behavior through which the Belgrade government prefers to solve the city’s problems. Support people that have been thrown onto the streets in this violent way. We must stand in solidarity with the Roma of Belgrade, we must not allow that people’s houses are destroyed, that fascist walls are built and that people are fenced into ghettoes!

We call on international solidarity in conjunction with these actions:

PLEASE CONTACT THE FOLLOWING: (1) Mayor’s office of the City of Belgrade; (2) President’s Office of the Republic of Serbia; (3) Head Office of the International University Sports Federation (organizing the Universiade in Belgrade); (4) Your nearest Serbian embassy or consulate.

(1) Mayor’s Office

E-mail: natasa.golubovic@beogradsg.org.yu
Head of Office, tel: 3246-764, 3229-787
tel: 3247-424, tel/fax: 3344-675
Natasa Golubović
independent expert associate in international affairs

Dear Mayor Dragan Djilas:

I am writing to express my outrage at the recent racist expulsion of 50 families from the Roma community of Block 67, near Belvil in New Belgrade.

I demand that your government take all necessary measures to provide restitution to the residents of the community and prevent any further expulsion of Roma families or their further social exclusion.

Belgrade can not expect to rebrand itself in the eyes of the world by hosting Universiades or Eurovision contests while it continues to deny fundamental rights to housing, employment, life and security to its residents, particularly the most vulnerable and socially excluded.

I demand that your government respond and meet its obligations under a number of international conventions and work towards securing the rights of Roma residents instead of deploying police forces to suppress them and engaging in “social cleansing.”

Kind regards,

____________

(2) President of the Republic of Serbia

GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF THE
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
Andricev venac 1, 11000 Beograd, Serbia
tel: +381 (0)11 3632-007, 3632-136
e-mail: kontakt.predsednik@predsednik.rs
http://www.predsednik.rs

Dear President Boris Tadic:

I am writing to express my outrage at the recent racist expulsion of 50 families from the Roma community of Block 67, near Belvil in New Belgrade.

I implore your government take all necessary measures to sanction the Belgrade City Authorities and ensure they provide restitution to the residents of this Roma community and work towards preventing any further expulsion of Roma families or their further social exclusion in Serbia.

Belgrade can not expect to rebrand itself in the eyes of the world by hosting Universiades or Eurovision contests while it continues to deny fundamental rights to housing, employment, life and security to its residents, particularly the most vulnerable and socially excluded.

I demand that your government respond and meet its obligations under a number of international conventions and work towards securing the rights of Roma residents instead of deploying police forces to suppress them and engaging in “social cleansing.”

Kind regards,

 

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