This story is over 5 years old

Police Evicted Squatters in Basel with Mace and Cable Wires

So the squatters marched through the city and threw rocks at the courthouse.

by Michel Schultheiss and Benjamin von Wyl
05 June 2014, 12:00pm

A few years ago it was announced that Basel’s Migrol harbour was going to receive a bout of cultural redevelopment. “Redevelopment” tends to involve evicting a bunch of buildings, then waiting around for ages before anything actually gets done. That, of course, provides squatters a perfect set-up for their whole occupying-an-abandoned-building shtick, and – in this case – the Swiss squatter collectives Wagenplatz and Uferlos packed all their stuff into the harbour in mid-2011, before moving around for a couple of years and finally settling at the site in May of 2013.

No one showed any serious interest in the cultural redevelopment during this time, so nobody bothered trying to evict the squatters. However, in April of this year, a company called Shift Mode won the bid to develop the site (they're turning it into a "chill-out" bar) and decided that they wanted to place a car park where the Wagenplatz and Uferlos were set up. The Wagenplatz shifted their mobile homes to another nearby space, but the Uferlos were less ready to move, prompting the police to announce their eviction.

The ousting took place on Tuesday and started out peacefully, but the mood had changed by the end of the afternoon – the police becoming increasingly brutal, using mace and cable binders to round up the squatters. Thirty-six people were arrested, and they're all now being charged with disturbing the peace and breaking and entering. The government has also decided to construct a symbolic one-metre-high wall around the space that the Wagenplatz are currently occupying.

On Tuesday evening the squatters and their supporters responded to the eviction with a protest march, comprised of around 300 people walking across the entire city. Demonstrators set things on fire, graffitied buildings and broke the windows of the city’s courthouse. Bizarrely, while police had responded aggressively to a peaceful squatting site during the day, no uniformed officers turned up to arrest people at the evening’s protest. Perhaps they realised that their presence would only make things worse.