“Elba lives! Elba stays! Stora Enso burn away!”
– report from the solidarity demonstration
A demonstration was organized in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday 22th of March against the destructive business of Stora Enso, and in solidarity with the squatters in Poland.
The meeting point for the demonstration was at the Senate Square at 3pm, and there appeared approximately sixty demonstrators. Banners were opened up, and some leaflets describing the situation of Elba and the dirty business of Stora Enso, were handed out as people were preparing for the demonstration.
Half past three the demonstration started it’s way to the headquarters of Stora Enso. In the beginning the police had to settle just for guiding the traffic instead of trying to control the movement of the demonstration.
When people got to the headquarters, the police officers tried to stop the demonstration from going further by blocking the way to the main entrance. Demonstrators did not stop but surprised the police by breaking through their line at the entrance.
People were shouting angry slogans to Stora Enso and the personnel
leaving the building (“Elba stays!”, “Fuck Stora Enso!”, etc.). The
police, calling out for more officers, got their share of the shouts
(“No justice, no peace! Fuck the police!”). During the march, as well
as at the headquarters, more leaflets were distributed. Music was
played from a portable sound system and some people played vuvuzelas.
The demonstration stayed at the main entrance of the headquarters for
a while. After that, the demo returned the same route it came from,
heading towards the metro station in Kaisaniemi, where people quickly
dispersed into different directions. Despite that there was a growing
police presence, no one got arrested and the officers did not try to
control the demonstration anymore.
Despite the fact that the demonstration was called with such a short
notice, surprisingly many people came and the atmosphere was filled
with anger towards Stora Enso. Many felt that the demonstration was
empowering and energetic, hoping this act of solidarity will give some
strength to the squatters of Elba.
Elba stays! Stora Enso – FUCK YOU!
Until all spaces are free!
– Helsinki Solidarity Perkele!
(The leaflet handed out in the demonstration:)
Stop the evictions!
– demonstration against the destructive business of Stora Enso, and in solidarity with the Polish squatters
On 16th of March in the afternoon, the workers of security agency
“Skrzecz” illegally intruded into Elba, an alternative social center
in Warsaw. The security agency was hired by the owner of the building, Stora Enso.
Once inside the house, the security destroyed places and beat up
people while throwing them out. Representative of the company, the
security guards or the police showed no documents to prove the
legality of the eviction. The police were actively supporting the
illegal raid, and did not do anything to stop the numerous
illegalities made by the security. In the end, the people of Elba were given one week time to gather their belongings and leave the area.
We have seen how vicious Stora Enso is in it’s illegalities around the world. In Brazil, the company has acted against the Landless movement by driving people away from their living areas and reacting violently to them trying to occupy the land back. In China, land has been expropriated by Stora Enso in order to turn them into eucalyptus
plantations. The farmers opposing the expropriation have been beaten
up severely, even to death. The company has, with the tried eviction
of Elba, expanded the repression against anti-capitalist action also
on European ground. In this case the eviction without the court
decision is illegal, and in a similar situation in Wroclaw in 1998,
European Court of Human Rights declared the actions of the police
breaking the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Elba squat is an important alternative space in the cultural map of
Warsaw. They have organized independent and non-profit events such as
concerts, exhibitions, plays, discussions, film screenings and
festivals, all without any state subventions. Repression against free
spaces has been quite a frequent phenomenon around the world lately,
even though the need for self-governed spaces is altogether great. For example, a law prohibiting squatting has been put through in the
Netherlands, and numerous free spaces have been evicted and are under
a threat of eviction in Germany. Occupy Movement has also had it’s
share of eviction threats in many countries. In Helsinki, social
center Satama got evicted last year, yet there is no sight of any
replacing space. Also in London, occupied buildings have been wiped
away from the way of the Olympics of this summer.
We think, that the struggle against the control of the urban space and defending free spaces is a struggle without borders. That is why we have called out a demonstration to support and show solidarity for the squatters of Elba and to everyone who is under the threat of eviction.
Until all spaces are free! Solidarity beyond borders!
Elba squat was raided on March 16th, 2012, by henchmen of a private security company who received assistance from the Polish police. The project was established in 2004. The Finnish company Stora Enso (the owner of the premises) has been well aware of Elba’s existence and activity and, after protests two years ago, the presence of the squatters in the area was accepted. No user of the building was notified of a scheduled date of eviction, so the incursion came as a total surprise for the people living in the squat, which is the biggest and oldest active social and cultural centre in Warsaw.
Shortly after 11am, guards hired by the ‘Skrzecz’ security agency broke into the building. They didn’t present an eviction warrant and used violence against squatters in order to force them to leave the property. The squatters resisted, and one person barricaded himself in his room and at least six others occupied the roof of the building. They issued an urgent call for help and support. Soon, police units arrived at the place. The fact that the attempted eviction was illegal was ignored by the police, who instead started to block the solidarity demo.
After a few hours, there were around 100 protesters trying to stop the eviction, facing nearly 30 riot cops who were assisting the security agents. The protesters clashed with the police, who attacked them using tear gas and truncheons; however, no large-scale clashes occurred. As the time passed, more police units showed up surrounding the squatters and supporters. Shortly after 6pm, the police received orders to disperse and started to remove reporters from the place. That seemed to be the start of a brutal eviction. Yet, police and security guards finally left the area, at 8pm. This allowed people to enter the squat and take it back.
The next day, the collective Elba issued a statement condemning actions of the police and the security agency. Also, Anonymous collective attacked the security company’s website and its email accounts. The website was taken down as a symbolic action of solidarity.
It has been brought to attention that the owner of the area gave squatters one week to move out. Elba calls for international support in order to prevent any further attacks. A demonstration in defense of the squat is scheduled for March 23rd in the city centre of Warsaw.