Lausanne: Short interview with the Loc(A)motive collective


Below is an interview with participants in the Loc(A)motive squat that was made possible on the occasion of counter-information gatherings in Lausanne. Since April 8th, Loc(A)motive is in danger of eviction, and the squatters are organizing a defense of the house. So, this would be the time to support them in any way you want.

Contra Info: What is the Loc(A)motive?
Loc(A)motive: It is a collective composed of people living in the occupied house of 1, Chasseron, in Lausanne, as well as people involved in the space’s activities. At the moment, 15 individuals are living in the house, and more or less 10 are also participating in different ways. The building is a former Spanish college, property of the Spanish State.

C: When did the squatting project begin?
L: On the 21st of September 2012.

C: Can you tell us more about the first days of this project?
L: The night we entered the building we were about thirty people, and the first thing we did was to barricade completely the house, in case the cops wanted to evict us. The same night, cops did arrive with 2-3 patrol cars after a neighbour called them. In fact, the cops just had a look and went away after a while.

C: Did the place remain barricaded for a long period of time?
L: Barricades stayed for almost two months. People in groups were continuously checking the area in case the police would come and try to make identifications on the squatters. We did so because normally, when the owner of a squatted house complains to the cops, they usually come and register the IDs in order to hand them over to a judge and initiate a trial. This was something we definitely wanted to avoid, also in order to gain some extra time. After one month, the police appeared again, but we refused to give them any personal data. They announced that we were obliged to attend a hearing, which we did not do at all. Then, after two weeks, we received a new summon for a hearing, which we ignored as well. The third notification we received explained that because we ignored the proceeding, the judge would come to the squat with the rest of the court members and the representatives of the so-called legal owner. After a long meeting we had in the house, we finally decided to accept to have a trial inside the Loc(A)motive.

C: Why did you accept to have a trial?
L: The debate was long with many different positions. The collective decided to accept a trial in the house mainly because of a generalized fear that by denying we would surely lose it.

C: What happened during this proceeding?
L: First of all, we have to say that there were certain parameters defining our decision to accept a trial in the house. The judge would only have access to the public spaces of the squat, meaning the first two floors and the basement. We contacted a lawyer whom we considered reliable, and he said his payment would be on free donation. We prepared a very detailed folder proving that the building was proper for living, and we counter-attacked the false arguments of the Spanish embassy’s lawyer. However, our lawyer was not that reliable as we originally thought. One day before the trial he announced to us that he would abandon our case. To begin with, this lawyer was never ours officially, because he never contacted the authorities.

In order to prepare the day of the trial, we addressed an open call to people we knew to attend the proceeding in solidarity. Both the Loc(A)motive people and the ones who came in solidarity were dressed in funny provocative costumes, hiding in various ways their special physical characteristics. The feelings we had during the trial were contradictory. On the one side there were people eating as in any normal collective dinner, while others were very stressed because we couldn’t count on the help of a lawyer anymore. There was really no common line of strategy defined by all the persons taking part in the collective. We had spent all of our energy on arranging things with the lawyer who finally didn’t show up. We later understood that focusing on the lawyer was a very bad idea. At the moment of the trial we didn’t manage to have a clear common line as a collective. Even though we had decided to permit entrance only in the public spaces, when the judge threatened us to continue the procedure without us if we wouldn’t show him the rest of the house, many people changed their mind and accepted it. Only a part of the last floor was not violated, thanks to the initiative of some people to keep it closed.

Finally, after a short talk between the judge, the Spanish State’s representatives and some of the Loc(A)motive’s members, the magistrate announced that we could keep the house until the 8th of April 2013, the date when the Spanish State was planning to sell the building. If by any chance the selling would not take place, they said we could stay longer. In fact, from the 8th of April we are facing an eviction threat. Of course, there is no signature of agreement from our part, and none of our names were handed over to the authorities. So, legally speaking, we believe that this is an invalid procedure.

C: What happened after this trial?
L: We focused on our various projects and on improving infrastructures inside the building. Today, we have several projects running. Every Friday, we have a vegan public meal, often completed with discussions, presentations, or the screening of a movie. Every Sunday, an open-door cafeteria takes place in the same room. There is a free shop with a lot of clothes and some other stuff open to everybody at any time. A library with hundreds of books of different thematic has found a place on the first floor, next to an infokiosk with several booklets and flyers. On the same floor, we have organized a children’s room with a lot of toys. Every Monday, refugees or other sans papiers—or people who would classify for the ‘protection of civilians in armed conflict’ (PoC)—gather to speak about migration and to write down their experiences of living in this racist system and being clandestine. Every Tuesday, an autonomous language school takes place. The sleeping space is on the second floor. Right now, we have accommodation for more or less 10 people, but we are still working on creating a larger sleeping space. Next to this, we have reserved a room for creative work with a professional drawing table, material for sewing and a lot of colors for painting.

Most of us need some time without thinking about an evacuation, but some days ago we started to organize ourselves to form a concrete resistance against an eviction. In this context, several people are motivated to go to other places and give a presentation about our situation and our strategy. Everybody who is interested in finding out more can contact us for information. We can also organize an info-meeting in another town if required.

Solidarity with all liberated zones, everywhere
Binz stays Binz (Zurich)
Köpi stays (Berlin)
Liebig 14 never forgotten (Berlin)
Not a single day without autonomous centres

Contact details:
Squat la Loc(A)motive — locomotive[at]
Chemin du chasseron 1, 1004 Lausanne, Suisse/Switzerland