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#Helsinki: About the #Mayday squat – legal repression on the horizon

During this years antiauthoritarian May Day demo a building was squatted an evicted by cops. Five people were arrested, suspected of criminal damage and contumacy to the police.

  Originally published by Takku.

This year’s antiauthoritarian Mayday march in Helsinki ended next to a police wall and for many in a confusing atmosphere. The situation was talked through a bit in, both in the comments as well an in the official communique by the march organizers. This conversation has been partly based on shaky info, and outright factual errors got involved. This writing is meant to be a modest contribution towards clearing up the day’s events so that we could react to them together in a spirit of solidarity and a will to learn. The writer’s experienced the day from the perspective of the squatting movement, and from our individual perspectives in different places. We do not represent the organizer’s of the most beautiful (Mayday march) bloc or anyone else for that matter. 

What happened then?

An abandoned office building was occupied (and named Squat Karkelo, which means a celebration) in Helsinki, Kamppi on the 1st of May 2019 at the corner of Lastenkodinkatu and Lastenkodinkuja. The antiauthoritarian Mayday march ended near the same building.

When the squatters arrived on site the atmosphere was still and there was barely anyone around. The building was entered through a window that was already broken. Immediatly afterwards the building started to come to life. Heavy office-closets ended up behind the doors to protect this beautiful free space from intruders. The narrow kithcen beneath the broken window filled up almost completely from all kinds of big and small stuff, furniture etc.

Unfortunately the police got to the house before the marching comrades could come and smell the amazing scent of a newly liberated space. When the popo got there the Mayday march was just at the park, still a few hundred meters from Squat Karkelo.

“I first saw two cops in the courtyard, one of which shouted angrily “NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO COME OUT OF THERE!” while simultaneously starting to kick the edges of the broken window trying to get inside. Meanwhile, almost unnoticed dozens of riot cops swarmed around the house from both sides to lay siege. It didn’t take long for us to hear more banging and breaking glass as the cops started making their way indoors. We decided to retreat to a room behind us, the door was locked and a sofa went behind the door.”

The hasty barricades in the house proved to be surprisingly challenging for the cops. Even though cops on the street were watching the squatters in the fortified room constantly through windows, in took fifteen minutes for the pigs tactical team to find this room in the building and get to it. At that moment the march had already stopped near the house, in front of the police lines.

“Suddenly I heard a fucking loud noise as the police smashed the door with an axe. One of them aimed at our faces with a projectile-weapon and shouted “HERE’S PEOPLE” in a surprised tone. We put our hands up instinctively in front of the deadly force of this insecure cop who joined us a bit later with many baffled “HANDS UP” shouts. Then over and around the sofa swarmed around ten similar goons dressed in all black who started ordering and moving us around the room with no apparent purpose. Then the boss of the team who had aimed with the projectile-weapon ordered their subordinates to take us to separate rooms.”

“As the police rushed in through the broken door I was already having trouble breathing due to the distressing situation. Two cops took me into an elbow-lock ja I said clearly that I’m having a panic attack, which was also repeated by a comrade who was next to me. I asked them to hold me less tightly, but they decided instead to lift me up by my elbows and carried me to another room. There they put me laying on the floor on my stomach and one of them pressed me down with their knee while holding my hands behing my back and pushing my head to the floor. I asked many time to be able to sit and I told them that I have stuff under my chest that makes my already hard breathing even more difficult but they declined. My comrade on the other side of the room tried to calm down me and the cops with their speech, which caused the cops to run the comrade against the wall and put them in handcuffs. We were both told to stop resisting and I was repeatedly told to stop fooling around. Finally when the cops lifted me to sit next to a wall they still held me really tightly from both sides. I’m extremely puzzled how they thought I could in any way run away since the house was filled with dozens of cops and there was even more outside on the street. I can’t find any other reason than a wish to cause me discomfort, to bully and to boost their own ego, which isn’t really surprising though.”

“Two of them walked me against some door and held me there, the other in a really tight elbow-lock and the other only gently holding my wrist with one hand. A bit later I noticed my hand shaking really much. I thought that even though this situation is really horrible it’s not really exciting in that kind of way. I looked at my hand, puzzled and saw how the shaking was actually coming from the hands of this special-forces cop who had the tight elbow-lock. At the same time the elbow-lock started tightening to painful levels and I finally told them “hey, you can maybe chill down a bit” which caused them to be startled, give an embarrassed grunt and loosen their grip.”

So the police arrived quickly, with great numbers and started immediately trying to enter the house without caring to give a clear removal-order. They were informed about the house being occupied and the Helsinki municipal government squatting protocol was mentioned. Both were ignored by the cops. They also didn’t inform the arrestees about any basis for the arrests or about any criminal suspicions while making the arrests.

Overall the actions of the police were exaggerated and more disorganized than usual. Looking back, we’re quite convinced that at least some of the cops evicting Squat Karkelo were really nervous and scared and didn’t know how to act. Perhaps their faith in their collegues on the street wasn’t really high and they were afraid the demonstration could get in front of the house and trap them in?

All five arrestees are suspected of criminal damage and contumacy to the police (insubordination).

And the march?

When the march arrived at the police lines our squatter-comrades were still there, barricaded inside a room and waiting for the police assault. While the demo organizers were taking soli-pictures for comrades hundreds of kilometers away in France, our comrades less than a hundred meters away would have needed solidarity. Even though entry to the house had been blocked and the party was cancelled, the comrades inside risking their freedom and security would have felt their hearts warm from almost any kinds of shows of caring from the comrades nearby.

Looking at the events from here, it feels problematic that the demo organizers tried to stop and control autonomous escalating action that came from some demo participants. In an antiauthoritarian movement, which is based on minimizing hierarchy and maximising liberty, it’s absolutely important that comrades don’t start controlling other’s actions. Some of us want to take greater risks and act even when it creates conflict. Some don’t. How could we reconcile these two different approaches more fruitfully?

We also want to question the demo organizers will to meticulously cooperate with the police. Was there some compelling reason for this that hasn’t yet been made public? It feels conflicting that somewhere comrades are voluntarily building mutual understanding with the police, while the police is elsewhere preparing to violently attack our comrades, family members and loved friends.

It would also be good to sharpen our unity on a practical level. Even though we didn’t get a squat-party this year, the feelings of separation that came up are the hardest defeat of all. The power of this beautiful, small but spiky anarchist movement can never fully manifest itself in any perfectly succesful event/march/action since after all our strength is between us in our relations. It is personal and it is shared. Therefore the culture of solidarity and caring shouldn’t be forgotten in any context.

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