What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Klinika to be Evicted

Yesterday, not two weeks after a vicious attack by neo-Nazi's, the Autonomous Social Center Klinika in Prague was attacked once again. However, this time it was not by Molotov cocktail wielding fascists, but by the state and its political machine. Klinika was sent a letter from the principle facilitator of its contract, the state Office for Government Representation in Property Affairs (UZSVM), declaring that it will not renew its agreement and allow Klinika to continue to use the space.  UZSVM cited zoning regulations (that remain the same as they were when the the original agreement was signed), that the autonomous social center is not using the building for its designated purpose as a health care facility. Their press release, in cold and callous fashion, also included a letter from the conservative mayor of the district were Klinika is located (Prague 3) that accused the people at Klinka of being extremists. UZSVM has obviously bowed to political pressure from open campaigns to discredit and evict Klinika by mayor's office and the state housing office.

The letter, claims that the legal designation of the space does not allow Klinika to offer the educational and social services that it provides free of charge to the public. This direct jump towards not renewing Klinika's contract at best circumvents, if not ignores, a process within which any occupant (Klinika) with the owners permission or the owner of the build itself (UZSVM) could change this designation through reallocating the space within an elongated application process that could take up to two months.  However, rather than offering Klinika this option they have chosen to wait until less than two weeks from the contracts expiration (March 2nd) to inform The social center that it they have “mysteriously” found zoning documentation saying we are not fulfilling the buildings stated purpose, and that we will have to leave the premises at the end of the contract. 

This letter was also accompanied by one from the mayor of Prague three saying that she does not want her district to be a “war zone” between left and right wing “extremists.”  But is it extremist to be attacked by extremists?  Klinika is a peaceful collective of individuals dedicated to volunteering their time to provide a safe space for people of all races, colors, creeds, genders, etc, and which provides non-commoditized services for the local community. Kinika offers free language courses, meditation classes, a free shop for re-purposed and recycled goods, a bar, cafe, space for meetings, internet radio, and concerts among others endeavors. In short, Klinika has dedicated itself to caring for not only the local community, but all people – regardless of race, color, sexuality, national origin, ability, etc. Perhaps this is abnormal universal caring is what the mayor considers as “extreme?”  If  this is caring for everyone equally is an extreme social and political position, then Klinika are proudly extremists.  But not violent extremists, and not in a war with the masked group that attacked Klinka two weeks ago. Yes, Klinika is politically active, it has created a political space were politics are practiced every day, and it organizes around the egalitarian issues its patrons are passionate about. But the Czech Republic  is now a free country, were political expression is legal – whether mainstream or in the minority.  It is an absolute shame that a peaceful group of people, volunteering their time to provide free services to the community, get attacked by a radical extremist group for their politics of caring, and then KLINIKA itself is vilified, becoming political tools to promote narrow political agendas.  Should the synagogue be vilified when it is attacked? Or the victim of sexual assault be blamed for being raped?  No, of course not.  Nor should Klinika be shamed – or evicted – for being the victum of a senseless and universally condemned attack.  This cold and callous response by UZSVM, the housing office, and Prague 3 does not feel like the response of state institutions in a democracy, nor that Czech society enshrines the right to free speech, free assembly, and free political expression as any true democracy should. 

In short, if caring about people is extreme, then yes Klinika is extreme. And if this “eviction” is not for political purposes, then why is Klinika not being offered the time and ability to change the buildings legal designation? Klinika is not violent, they are not at war, they only wish to provide a safe space for people in need and those that can benefit from their services.

In leau of this brazen act of political theater, Klinika asks all of its international comrades and sympathizers to stand in solidarity with us. To comment at your local embassies or consulates. To let them know that this is not what democracy looks like. Democracy is free language lessons, free political speech, and the right to offer a non-commoditized space to a general public increasingly in need of services states no longer provide and private companies charge too much for.  Please, stand in solidarity with us. Make your voice heard so that Klinika can continue to breath life into its surrounding community.    

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Klinika Attacked by Neo-Nazis

Following a day of protests in Prague both for an against migration in Europe, the autonomous social center Klinika came under attack last night. During the days demonstrations, a legal permitted march against “fortress Europe” organized in cooperation with Klinika's collective came under attack more than twenty fascists and neo-nazis. They came from behind the march as it turned a corner attempting to cut it in half. As the peacefully protestors in the march turned to protect themselves from the fascists, an overwhelmed group of police offers intervened to stand between the two groups. The neo-nazis began throwing whatever they could find at the marchers; eventually rocks, sticks, and small explosive devices. The marches defended themselves by returning the projectiles and eventually the much larger numbers of the march intimidated the attackers into retreat as they turned and ran away.

This group had been antagonizing people throughout Prague earlier in the day. I personally saw the same group earlier that day on public transport as I went to the rally. They were very aggressive with riders, including accosting one young women – trying to get her to come with them. She quickly left the train, visibly shaken, upon which one of them – previously speaking Czech – claimed she was a good “Deutsches Mensch.” I got off at the same stop as them and while we went different ways, me towards the beginning of our march, they went in a direction that would put them exactly where they attacked the march from.

Upon completion of the march – which included continuous antagonism from nationalist elements, and a few more radical characters – people made their way back to Klinika at differing speeds. When I arrived, there was a small group of people there that had just learned that the Nazis were coming to attack Klinika. We prepared as best we could but quickly came under attack. We pepper sprayed them which kept them outside long enough for us to lock and barricade the door. At this point they started throwing rocks at the windows, shattering the old medical clinics windows with ease. As we attempted to barricade the windows, glass and debris flew everywhere. One member of the Klinika collective was hit, opening a gash on his forehead. The rocks were followed by a lit flare sending sparks and fire all over, but it got caught in the shards of the multi-paned glass still jaggedly protruding from the window. We quickly put this out as the rocks stopped flying.

At this point, things calmed down for a few seconds and we were all able to check on others throughout the building. However, the calm quickly ended as one collective member yelled fire! Several of us ran into the hallway where the smoke was coming from and found thick smoke throughout the entire atrium the entire downstairs cafe area was full of smoke with flames leaping from the window at the entrance. They had apparently broken the windows there in the same fashion as upstairs and thrown another incendiary devise in which lit the drapes on fire. We were still able to put it out without much permanent damage to anything but the windows and furniture.

This attack though, was a brazen and coordinated attack on an autonomous social and community center in the heart of Prague that offers a free non-commoditized space for people of all ages and persuasions to take free language lessons, have a quite beer, take their kids to nursery school, attend free lectures, and even attend meditation classes. However, the center has also been a hub for aid and relief for migrants, and therefore a target within the migrant crisis gripping all of Europe. The center acted as a staging area for relief goods going east and south for newly arriving refugees from the war torn areas of the middle east and central Asia. Given the days protest event against migration in Europe, the escalating anti-muslim rhetoric and political climate it foments, it could easily be said to be the rationale for the attack – if there ever could be a rationale for such an irrational act of violence; or better put, terrorism. For that is what this was, definitionally, an act of terrorism. This group of fascists attacked an innocent group of people providing a safe space for the community and aid for those in need.

Whether you agree with Klinika's politics or not, with migration or not, there is – and can be no – justification for the same type of terrorist attack that these fascists and their nationalist brethren portend to be against. If you hate Muslim people because .000001% are engaged in radical politics and use violence in an attempt to get their way, then how is anyone to condone the same thing within our own midst? Again, whether you agree with Klinika's politics or not, if this is a democracy and everyone is entitled to their political beliefs, then you have to respect Klinika's political efforts and condemn this brazen act of violence against peaceful protestors and an autonomous community center simply trying to help people. It is in peace that Klinika exists, and here now – as 400 plus people come to show solidarity – that Klinika survives and excels in defiance of violence and terrorism.