Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Contrary to what many non-Kreuzbergers seem to believe, it is not every day that you bump into 500-strong police forces in full gear on your way to the baker´s.
Today, however, is different. What is happening in Görlitzer Park and around SO36 right now feels like very chilly, leafless Kreuzberger Mai-Krawallen.
The planned forced eviction of a Turkish-German family from Lausitzer Strasse 8 who refused to pay a higher rent demanded by the new house owner, then lost the ensuing court case against their landlord (in several instances) and were ordered to leave the flat they occupied for nearly 30 years, attracted both the attention and the anger of many.
Although the case is not as conveniently simple as one would hope. The family, probably due to their lawyer´s poor grasp of the applicable regulations, had made a serious mistake of paying the overdue rent balance a couple of days too late. And since dura lex, sed lex (all I remember from a forced two-year-long Latin course at the university), the landlord – Mr Franell – could evict them at once. Which he promptly did.
This mistake gave Franell Consulting GmbH who own the building and are in a hurry to squeeze maximum pecuniary pleasure out of it (Kreuzberg property market looking like one big fireworks show at the moment) the final argument to get rid of the unwanted tenants and get hold of the 120-square-metre flat they were renting. Nobody doubts that the next tenancy contract will mention sums of money that would make an average old Kreuzberg tenant drop dead, rise again well angry and set things on fire.
In an attempt to prevent the eviction – something that has already worked once before – several hundred people have gathered today at both ends of Lausitzer Strasse. With cushions, mattresses and sleeping mats or even pieces of cardboard paper they tried to organise a sit-in to block access to the street. The police were faster and more effective, however. They blocked the blockade, so to say.
For one of two hours it was all quite peaceful and polite: the protesters were shouting their lines, the police were keeping their cool, the press and other media kept harvesting material. It was good to see so much solidarity and willingness to help and support. On the corner of Lausitzer and Reichenberger Strasse there even stood a small group of kindergarden children with rattles, whistles and horns (oy, that´s Kreuzberg upbringing for yah!). Around them moved a full scope of Kreuzberg´s population: old 68´ers who have seen and done it all and you have no idea, mate! Jack Wolfskin clad media wizards on their sleek bikes on the way to the Hub. Organically-clad mums with their toddlers gnawing on their India rubber dummies. Nervous-looking office types who seemed ready to start either crying or tossing pavement stones if the volume around them goes up.
Elderly Turkish ladies were chatting with “full-geared” female members of the police force. Even the Autonomen, sporting the usual black combos and eating Stulle (bread sandwiches) brought along for the occasion in a large plastic box, behaved themselves for the meantime.
Unfortunately, after the tenant handed in the keys to the bailiff things went seriously pear-shaped and instead of the peaceful demonstration, the usual combat mode was introduced. Street-signs have been flying around, rubber tyres have been burnt (and since they were strategically placed under the U1 viaduct, the traffic between Kottbusser Tor Station and Warschauer Strasse had to be temporarily interrupted) and the gathered boiling masses have been steered towards Görlitzer Park to prevent any further damage to the surrounding streets. And something tells me those were not the kindergarden groups or the old Turkish ladies who started the fracas…
The flat is gone, the landlord won, the family of five had to move in with their parents (luckily for them living in the same house). That is reason enough to be angry. One thing has been bothering me, though, as I was standing in Wiener Strasse looking at the fine mist of pepper spray puff out of No. 13 house entrance (it was through this entrance that the police accessed the back-yard of Lausitzer Str. 8).
Among the calling for social justice, stopping the gentrification, giving real houses to the real people (“Protect the huts, war on the palaces!” was my favourite) and the usual verbal attacks on the police who around here seem to be blamed for everything all the time and regardless of the weather, there was hardly any mention of the main culprit: Franell Consulting, the landlord.
While Kreuzberg is being partly dismantled again, I do not think there is anything burning around the company´s seat. Herr Franell is going to get into his Audi A9, go to his lovely house in Grunewald or a chic flat in Ku-Damm and call his lawyers to do some virtual back-slapping.
So much for protecting the huts.