On this quick update, we talk about the secretive British investment company behind all the problems between punks and police on Rigaer Straße. Daniel thinks the whole scenario could be turned into a musical, possibly called “Henkel’s Leftist Orgy of Violence” after Berlin’s interior minister, who has been embarrassed by a court ruling this week that found the police-assisted eviction at Rigaer Straße 94 to be unlawful.
We also get an update from co-host Jöran Mandik about his attempt to run as a candidate for the upcoming Berlin city elections.
Come along to the Mobile Kino Weekender on July 29-31. It’s a cinematic camping trip out in the woods by a lake. Radio Spaetkauf will be recording a live episode there. Can you sponsor a Syrian refugee to come to the festival? E-mail us if you’re willing to contribute €40: email@example.com
A British investment company is behind the escalating conflict between Berlin’s former squatter community and the city’s police, resulting in illegal evictions, demonstrations and car burnings.
Tensions have flared in recent months between police and the residents of Rigaer Straße 94, a former squat in the district of Friedrichshain. The building is owned by Lafone Investments Limited, a one pound company with registered offices in London.
More than 300 police raided the property on June 22 and evicted some of the tenants, including a bar called Kadterschmeide run by a community association. They were acting on a request by Lafone Investments Limited, which sought police protection for builders hired to renovate the property.
On Wednesday July 13 a Berlin court found the eviction was unlawful. There was no official eviction order in place to justify the removal of the tenants and their property. The police had effectively participated in an illegal property invasion on behalf of a foreign investor.
The court decision followed a fiery weekend of demonstrations and retaliatory car burnings in Berlin. On Saturday July 9 an estimated 3500 people marched through Friedrichshain demanding an end to police actions against Rigaer Staße residents. Around 1800 riot police followed the demonstrators and kettled them on Warschauer Brücke with a water cannon truck positioned at one end, and used tear gas on the crowds. Some demonstrators set off flares and threw cobblestones at the police.
An official statement from the police claimed 123 officers were injured, although only one required hospitalization. The police definition of officer injury can include heat stress and reaction to tear gas. There were eleven car burning reported across Berlin on the same evening. Car burnings have long been used as an anti-gentrification tactic by the so-called autonomous scene. They have flared again in recent months in retaliation against police actions in Friedrichshain.
Opposition politicians in Berlin have critized the city’s police minister, Frank Henkel from the CDU, who ordered the crackdown on Rigaer Straße and the autonomous scene. Rather than fostering peace, Mr. Henkel and his police department now stand accused of fermenting conflict. Following the court order, Mr. Henkel now appears to have supported an unlawful eviction on behalf of the property owner.
However, the true identity of the building owner remains unclear. The property was purchased in 2014 by Lafone Investments Limited. Company registration documents state that company’s single one pound share is held by Mr. John Dewhurst, a London-based lawyer. He was also listed as the sole company director until July 8, when he removed himself from the position. His name appears in the Panama Papers as a shareholder of Platinum Investment International Corporation, a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Dewhurst has told German media that he is not the real owner of the company or building, but merely acting on behalf of the anonymous owner. In Berlin, the owner is represented by Hausverwaltung Centurius, a building management company.
Although Rigaer Straße 94 is often reported to be a squat, it is in fact a normal and legally occupied residential building. The property was originally squatted in 1990, but the residents signed contracts to rent their apartments in 1992 with the then-owner, a public housing company. The building was sold to a private owner in 2000, and again in 2014 to Lafone Investments Limited. In 2015 the property’s new owner began attempting to evict the tenants, sparking the current conflicts.
For more background to the Rigaer Straße police raids, listen to Radio Spaetkauf’s February podcast on which we interview journalist John Riceberg:
Our co-host Jöran Mandik is running for council! How hard is it to sign up as a candidate for the Berlin election? Easier than registering your address, he explains. Thanks to videographer Victoria Linchong for this clip.
Berlin typographer Anton Koovit spent over a year creating his font called U8, based on the letters on U-Bahn station signs. Recently the BVG began using Koovit’s font to print new signs, but without paying directly for a license to do so. We talk to Anton about his font. UPDATE: The BVG has responded to our story. They say their own museum developed the font.
Bicycle riders working for the food delivery company Deliveroo recently launched a protest action at having their weekend bonuses cut without warning. They turned the logos on the delivery bags upside down to get the startup’s managers to address their concerns. We interview one bicycle courier about the action, which he says was taken to prevent conditions getting any worse.
Berlin’s population boom means we might have to give up a bit of green space. Now the city’s open air swimming pools are being targeted as potential development zones. The Berliner Bäderbetrieb, which runs the pools, has been asked if it will give up some land to allow a city-owned housing company to develop flats. Churches are also being asked to hand over old cemeteries for refugee shelters.
And co-host Jöran Mandik continues his campaign to get elected to the Berlin Abgeordnetenhaus. He has registered as an independent candidate, and now requires 45 supporting signatures to get on the ballot. Will you sign up? Drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.