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Athens: Police raid on the Occupied Social Centre VOX in Exarchia

In the first days of 2012, people involved in the anarchist/anti-authoritarian milieu occupied the VOX building (property of the state-run ‘Social Insurance Institute’–IKA) in Exarchia square, in an effort to turn it into an open social centre. ‘ΒΟΞ’ was the name of a former open-air cinema in the same building, at the corner of Arachovis and Themistocleous streets. The building itself enables the hosting of various ventures. Aim of the group is to broaden sociopolitical struggles through collective demands, in an era where economic–systemic crisis threatens and attacks most parts of society, but also to build relations of solidarity and communication with people and other initiatives in the neighbourhood.On April 20th, just one day before the public opening of the new project, heavy police forces raided the area, and in particular Exarchia Square, and by 6am (GMT+2) cops and prosecutors evicted the VOX building (it appears that no squatter was inside).

At 13pm, Exarchia Square and many surrounding streets were under police occupation.

There were reports about a police raid on one more building in Exarchia (οn 60, Valtetsiou Street), which is also a property of IKA.

Three persons were arrested during the eviction of the second building, on Valtetsiou Street. They were kept at a police station, brought before prosecutor (accused of illegal entry), and two of them were released. The third person, an immigrant woman without papers, is held in the Aliens Police Directorate on Petrou Ralli Street.

Meanwhile, the social centre VOX building was sealed off. At 13.49pm, the VOX group released an announcement about the crackdown, drawing attention to the media distortion of facts, and stated among others that today, April 20th, at 6am, numerous repressive forces along with three prosecutors took control over the entire area of Exarchia. Recently Ioannis Tentes, prosecutor of the Supreme Court (Areios Pagos), had issued an order for the eviction of occupied public spaces, an order that has now been put into practice for the first time with the close cooperation of the renowned attorney general Eleni Raikou. Under the prosecutors’ command, the IKA’s Administration filed a formal lawsuit against the social centre VOX, thus enabling the pre-decided forced eviction.

At 17pm, the entire Exarchia neighbourhood (including the entrance of the Polytechnic School of Athens, on Stournari Street) was still cordoned off by police forces, with squads and motorcycle units blocking even the traffic on some streets, and so on. Other scheduled activities were affected by the closure of the main entrance to the Polytechnic: the regular assembly of solidarity to the anarchist R.O. CCF was relocated to the Small Theatre of Lofos Strefi, at 19pm (instead of the Gini building at the Polytechnic). The 2days gigs for imprisoned fighters which were scheduled to take place inside the Polytechnic (a DIY punk benefit festival for 20-21/4) were cancelled.

The VOX group called a gathering in Exarchia Square for Saturday 21/4, by 6pm, where they intended to hold their scheduled live concert.

On Saturday evening (at about 19pm) the VOX building was re-occupied with the help of more than 200 comrades. The self-organized event for the opening of the squat was attended by nearly 2,000 people in the square as well as nearby streets. Small-scale clashes broke out by 2am, and cops fired a lot of tear gas in the area.

A few days before this ‘spectacular’ eviction, an MP of the far-right LAOS party had raised ‘questions’ over the Occupied Social Centre VOX

On April 9th, the squatters reported that the MP of the far-right LAOS party Athanassios Pleuris posed a formal question in parliament to the ‘civil protection’ and the labour ministries. The parliamentarian stated that anarchists wish ‘… to transform the particular space into a “social centre”, i.e. one more nest of anarchist violence and terrorism…’ —asking the ministers, among others, if they plan its immediate eviction. The cops’ ministry released an evasive bureaucratic reply, merely underlining the fact that its forces are monitoring the place in a ‘discrete’ manner (what came as no surprise).

Fighting without tutelage against all authority, squats and liberated spaces are now an even greater threat to the reigning order. So, this persecution attempt can only be seen within the frame of coordinated repression against radical projects and fighters. The squatters’ response towards the State and each fascist thug is that the VOX building is already in use by people who will not cease to struggle for a classless society of equality and solidarity, without exclusions and exploitation. Squats are an integral part of the struggle for freedom.

HANDS OFF THE SQUATS – SOLIDARITY IS OUR WEAPON

Here follows the VOX project’s first communiqué, released in early March.

Occupation of the VOX building – Exarchia

In the first days of 2012, people that are defined through our participation in the anarchist/anti-authoritarian milieu and the class anti-capitalist movement occupied the VOX building (property of the state-run ‘Social Insurance Institute’–IKA) in Exarchia square, in an effort to turn it into an open social centre.

The choice to create a social centre in the heart of Exarchia is tightly related both to the historicity of the area and the critical condition of the time and its political and social developments.

For several decades, beyond a particular neighbourhood of Athens, Exarchia has been an enduring sociopolitical laboratory, a meeting place for rebel youths, and a space for subversive political ventures, free creation but also for interaction with contemporary critical tendencies.

Consequently, the area became an affinity pole for anarchists and leftist youths, students, intellectuals, who chose Exarchia not only as a meeting place, but also as a place of residence. This, combined with the struggles in process, created a social relation with some parts of the local community that surely not at the least was a straight-line relationship, but it was always connected to the condition of the movement each time.

The State, so annoyed by this part of the city, has repeatedly attempted to regain control of the area through direct repression or by turning the neighbourhood into a drug supermarket. The very expansion of commercialization and lifestyle proceedings from the outset aimed at enervating the insurrectionary dynamics of Exarchia.

Today, in the current condition of crisis, the front attack unleashed by the Capital and the State has led large parts of the society into impoverishment, thus phenomena of intra-classist violence and social cannibalism are on the rise everywhere. Specifically in Exarchia gangs of thugs and bullies, seizing the neighbourhood’s libertarian history, and the failure of a collective response to these phenomena so far, are threatening daily life in Exarchia affecting seriously any political and social acquis. Values such as resistance and solidarity fall farther behind the fabricated arguments of security, law and order.

The political content of the move for the occupied VOX is interrelated to the increasing necessity posed by the objective evidence of the eruptive condition of the particular space and time. The social centre VOX — a project of social, political, cultural intervention — occurs at the present juncture of aggravation of the economic crisis, while the dominant Power bloc (which has never been more unjustifiable by the society and at the same time becomes so homogenized in its interior) unleashes its final attack against labour force and all of the social acquis.

At the same time, repression has been upgrading into presupposition for the maintenance of social coherence by engaging practices of state of emergency upon all aspects of everyday life. The economic terrorism (cancellation of workers’ vested interests after decades, marginalization and impoverishment of large parts of society, employer immunity) and the State’s tactics (authoritarian armouring at all levels, intensified police state, attempts to lay harsh punishment upon all practices of disobedience, whether confrontational or not, persecutions of protesters en masse, ‘anti-terror’ legislation, and so forth) set the stage of a class war, the intensity of which shows also the dead ends and the limits of dominant classes’ attempt to exit the farrago of crisis.

For we live in an era where the system shows inability to integrate all the exploited people for the time being; simultaneously, we see signs of broadening of the social and class struggles (massive demonstrations, clashes with the forces of state repression, revivification of trust to collective activity, emergence of organizational forms and claims within neighbourhoods) that might still be inadequate to support an overall embankment, however these struggles show a positive sign to the struggle for the overthrow.

The expansion of the sociopolitical struggles and the dynamic of development of all forms of resistance in order to reach effectiveness must keep abreast with the concept of self-organization, the social and political solidarity and the rejection of institutions.

We believe that squatting constitutes an integral part of the subversive movement, and this practice’s revivification into the given circumstances has a double purpose: from the one hand that of a defense line through the creation of free spaces, and on the other hand an aggressive tactic to draw the line for new prospect to come —whether it concerns permanent occupation of buildings aiming at the establishment of open sociopolitical spaces as a centre and operation base for struggles, or occupation of public properties and spaces as a form of protest that exceeds the bourgeois legitimacy, or even more when it comes to occupations as a mean of class claims that questions the very concept of property, that is to say the seizure of the means of production and occupation of working places.

Squats are a threat to dominance, because they defy the Power, the capitalist relations and the dominant way of organizing society in practice, showing forth the self-activity and participation instead of assignment; the fulfillment of our needs and desires instead of conditions imposed to us by the rulers.

The character itself of a squat, as confrontational practice and self-organized project, aims at social ruptures that intensify the contradictions and the system’s dead ends, based on relations of solidarity and values’ equality.

We understand self-organization as a process anti-hierarchical, anti-centralized, without representations, experts and pundits. We fight all forms of nationalist, racist and sexist logic. We oppose any kind of consumption patterns that require personalization, homogenization of society and submission to the logic of market and profit.

A precondition for the effectiveness of our activity is to expand the culture of collective interests and build solidarity relations within our assembly but also with our neighbourhood; at the same time, through our comradely connection with networks of resistance that are activated in the area: squats, assemblies of neighbourhood, hangouts, political collectivities, workers’ groups and class–base unions. Above all, though, through our active contribution in the social struggles, demonstrations, strike blockades, barricades we aspire to contribute our part to the big wager of our times, i.e. the passage from the spontaneous protest and indignation of the oppressed and exploited people to the conscious uprising and social revolution as the only exit from the crisis of the system and the ruling class attack, establishing more structures and zones of emancipation and collective action.

We want the social centre VOX to become a space of direct communication, interaction and creativity, where there will be no hierarchies and experts, or spectacle and consumption patterns; a space of comradeship, solidarity and struggle against all authority.

Main reference point in the squat’s function and activities will be the management assembly, where collective decisions will be made under co-configuration and consensus upon the space’s administration and the social centre’s extroverted interventions.

Through self-organization, communication and fermentation, the VOX occupied space enables the hosting of various ventures that will be administrated by thematic working groups, such as a self-managed café for the financial support of the imprisoned fighters but also for the expenses of the squat itself, a lending library, an events hall, film screenings, activities for children, newspaper publication, etc.

Occupied Social Centre VOX

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