Monday, October 31, 2011

Epizentrum News Conference

Monday 31 October 2011
By Der Kosmonaut

Today is the deadline BUWOG has given for Epizentrum to vacate the building. Many of the occupants had a nervous and restless night watching for a police eviction late at night or early in the morning. So far, there isn't any sign of an impending eviction.

A news conference was organised by the Epizentrum. It was supposed to begin at 11 o'clock and started at 11:20 with a classical music piece of a violin/viola concerto. BUWOG had also been invited to the News Conference but no one from the corporation appeared. There were many media outlets present including ORF radio and TV, Orange Radio and the main newspapers of Vienna and Austria.

Many of the occupants were in costume or masked or disguised.  It was quite a media circus as photographers snapped away at masked and disguised occupants. The news conference occured at Lindengasse 62. It's the third structure part of the occupation. It's dubbed the White House due to the colour of the building and also a typical Viennese tongue-in-cheek political statement and joke. It's a former film studio.  This past Friday, BUWOG cut power to the building.

In response to the question about the status of the house and the danger of eviction, the occupants said that they had no idea. Afterwards, Jutta Klaedorfer from MA 18 (Vienna Department of City Development and City Planning) answered the question. She said that BUWOG owns the property and they can't figure out why people want “to have a vacation” in an abandoned structure. She was greeted with jeers and derison from the assembled occupants and their supporters. 
A woman replied to the Frau Klaedorfer. “For 3 weeks, neither BUWOG nor any politician has come to the house to ask what is going on. The occupants have rennovated and restored the house.” She went on to explain how neither BUWOG nor any politician gave a damn about the empty building until the squatters took over and rebuilt the structure without money or assistance from BUWOG or the city.

The next question posed was regarding the Green Party. How was it possible that a district in the heart of the Green Party, both in Vienna and Austria, that the party didn't take a position or make any comment about Epizentrum? In reply, the occupants explained how there hasn't been a single new affordable housing unit built in Neubau  over the past 5 years. The Greens, the occupants maintain, have done nothing to build affordable housing or any social centres in Neubau. It's apparent that the Greens are not interested in social/affordable housing or any community centres.

The occupants read a statement denouncing the Green Party. They crafted a script and different masked occupants read a different sentence and line doing agitprop theatre. In their performance, they laid out the political and economic reasons for the occupation. They explained how everything within Epizentrum was free: Food, housing, education, afterschool help, day care and social centre. They went on to  explain their anti-capitalist politics and their opposition to  private property. Elaborating on the neccesity of Epizentrum for society, they explained that Epizentrum stood “for social revolution! We will all stay!”
They chanted in German: “Wir bleiben alle! Wir blieben alle!” About 75 people chanted, shouted and cheered.

Other occupants spoke out against real estate speculation in both Neubau in Vienna in general. Another speaker stated that Epizentrum was needed as a space for children to play and for youth which is sorely lacking in Vienna.

Another journalist asked about the concrete plans the collective has. What will they do today? What will happen if they get evicted? What do they actually want?

“Anarchy! The Future. All for all! Social Revolution.” The shouts were heard from all sides and from the mezzanine above from masked occupants. They started to sing the classic German punk song Rauch-Haus Song “Das ist unser haus!” This is our house! 

At this point the news conference degenerated. The youth began to  dance and sing as they jumped up and down and all around. It was quite entertaining but I began wonder if this really advanced their cause. They were possibly setting themselves for ridicule by the right wing media. The singing dancing and jumping became a sponteanaus demo. 
“Wir bleiben alle!” We will all stay! They chanting and singing wass accompanied by two young men playing percusssion.

Meanwhile, the news conference switched back to Frau Klaedorfer. She was really arrogant and dismissive of the occupiers. She is really a typical Austrian Social Democrat reactionary. I had repeatedly asked for her name and her official capacity in German. She refused to answer me. I asked her if she was a city official. She simply replied that she serves as the go between the city and BUWOG. When I asked her once again for her name and official position, we replied that it didn't matter. When I asked if she was a politician and her political affliation, she vehemently denied she was a politician. I only discovered her name and position from another journalist present. I wondered if she was rude to me because I'm a foreigner of colour. 

In any event, she dismissed the occupiers as nothing but "autonomous anarchists". She simply repeated this statement as an epithet. She went on into a reactionary litany to which the occupiers and their supporters jeered and shouted: "Propaganda! Propaganda!" Undeterred, she launched into a right wing diatribe. I asked her directly if she had any information or knowledge about the probability of Epizentrum being evicted. She shrugged her shoulders and said she had no idea. One of the remarkable things, for a Western foreigner at least, is how openly reactionary Austrian public officials are. They exercise absolutely no caution in their public statements. In most other Western democracies, no public official would be so brazen and careless with their words. The Austrian officials repeatedly make what is normally the fatal political mistake of thinking out loud. However, her vulgar display of ignorance and lack of class is not even worth repeating on this blog. 

After the news conference many of the occupiers sought me out. A few told me that they didn't believe Epizentrum would be evicted today or tomorrow. The main reason being that tomorrow (November 1) is a public holiday. Tomorrow is not a business day. BUWOG will be closed. Moreover, the police must be paid overtime and the bill for the costs will be presented to BUWOG. Students will have two days off. The university students are being mobilised to support the Epizentrum. The sentiment among the occupiers of Epizentrum is that BUWOG will make their attempt to evict on Thursday.

Unless BUWOG and the police pull a fast one today or tonight, it appears that Epizentrum has survived Halloween 2011. The Epizentrum Collective wishes to thank all the international support and solidarity they have received from abroad thanks to this blog. The revolution continues apace in Vienna. 

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks great article! resist!

Monday, October 31, 2011  

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