When the Berlin Wall fell back in 1989, East Germans streamed into the West looking for better lives. The exodus was so extreme that entire apartment buildings were abandoned. Europe had had a rich squatting culture for many years, so it didn't take long for these empty buildings to become adopted homes for bands of drifters and hippies. Over the years most of these places became legit abodes but, legality aside, many of them still house tenants with fiercely independent and anarchist political beliefs.
One great thing about Europe is that people tend to tolerate their neighbors far more than in Australia or North America. So you have an anarchist living next door? So what? Their building is covered in graffiti and anti-capitalist slogans? Fine. They're neighbors, after all. Hell, one of the streets in this area was renamed after a squatter who was murdered by neo-Nazis in 1992. The subway station has a plaque and people hold an annual vigil for him. In spite of the gentrification, in spite of this borough turning solidly middle class, Silvio Meier is a neighborhood hero.
The anarchists, the anti-capitalist activists, the anti-fascist hooligans, the squatters... they are our neighbors and they are our history. Their names are on our street signs. Their plaques are in our subway stations. Their blood runs through our kiez. Literally. And their legacy continues in a handful of buildings that remain proudly autonomous and open to refugees and gutter punks and drifters. This is our culture.
When i moved into this building 2 years ago, the front door lock was permanently busted and our lobby and stairwells were covered in anarchist graffiti. In the time i have been living here, the locks have been fixed, and the graffiti painted over (multiple times). There are still a few angry punks left in our building, but we are slowly getting overrun by Airbnb medium-stay tourists and cashed-up immigrants.
I can hardly complain. I was perhaps the first of the new wave in this building. Although i pay rock bottom for my place and steadfastly refuse to shop at any of the organic stores or frequent the overpriced hipster restaurants, i am still out the door every morning by 9 to go to an office job downtown.
Our lobby is all boring white paint now. Only a handful of mailboxes still have political stickers on the front. The activists just two or three blocks down the road are beginning to give up pasting calls to action on our building. I guess not enough of us turn up. I guess most of my fellow tenants take the tram across the road to work, or the train a few hundred meters north. I guess they don't want to walk south, toward the subway, and be confronted with how many motherfucking cops have invaded our neighborhood.
So two weeks ago, on the day of the Brexit vote, the cops once again stormed one of the buildings in my hood. They not only forcibly evicted a bunch of residents on very shaky grounds, but also shut down a local bar that was located inside the building. And then they declared the entire area for two blocks around a "danger zone". I'm not talking pissant suburban blocks with 5 families on it, this is a city block with buildings housing hundreds of people. Declaring it a "danger zone" means they can station riot police at all the corners, they can harass residents on the streets, and apparently they can continue invading buildings without any legal justification.
Well, their motivation is to bust an alleged cop killer. Oh wait, this isn't America. I mean an alleged cop puncher. It's true that our hood houses a few of the left-wing "antifa" hooligan scene. (That's a thing in Europe btw - mobs of angry, white anti-racists getting into violent street wars with angry, white racists. Spoiler alert: the angry, white cops tend to be allied with the angry, white racists.) A few months ago some hooligan punched a cop and then disappeared somewhere in our hood. Because of this tenuous link, the coppers have concluded that we are all anti-capitalist vandals who set fire to cars and smash windows all across the city. The reality is that the majority of people in this neighborhood - and even the majority of (ex-)squatters - are regular everyday folks who go to work, go shopping and hang out peacefully in the area. Still, the police are getting suited up every night, marching around with their truncheons and their pepper spray like this is some kind of 24/7 violent protest. It isn't. It's my home. It's all of our home. And this treatment is appalling.
It's even more noticeable for me now because even though i work a white collar job downtown, i am "fortunate" enough to be a computer programmer. That means i walk to work in black jeans, black tank and black shades. And i have black tattoos all over my arms. Which basically means i look exactly like the gutter punks and queer anarchists who are my neighbors. The cops don't give a shit about my salary, my job, my political beliefs. I look like a hobo, so i'll be oppressed the same as they are. Hell. I live a few blocks up the road, so why shouldn't i be subject to the same police lines and riot trucks all round my house? I mean, it's all about keeping us safe, right? Yeah, fucking right.
Fuck the police. I have lost every shred of sympathy and understanding i ever had with them. These spiteful cunts have amassed hundreds of bullies to occupy our neighborhood because of one fucking attack almost 6 months ago. And, fuck, who am i kidding? Even before that, when i first moved here, the pricks were regularly invading our hood like it was fucking Fallujah 2003. I know there's probably a few good eggs in between, but right now i don't trust any of them any more. All cops are bastards. And this is how society crumbles.