“Feel at home,” says the young activist to his two colleagues after he has just unlocked the door to an apartment in Berlin’s Schillerkiez. Two rooms, kitchen, bathroom, a sun-drenched dream for anyone who is suffering from a troubled apartment. The white walls still smell of color; new tenants can move in here immediately. But the three left have different plans than the mailbox company that owns the house: they declare the apartment occupied. They had exchanged the lock before.
Similar scenes are now taking place in about half a dozen other locations in the city. The exact number was not known in the afternoon. But one thing is certain: The #besetz alliance is back. Unlike in the past two years, when houses were occupied again and again, visible to everyone, this Saturday is a silent, i.e. secret occupation, without window banners and police contact.
The activists open the apartments to pass them on to the homeless. “The corona crisis again shows the vulnerability of homeless people and people in camps.” They had “no privacy, no hygiene, no protection,” says the squatter, who calls himself Kim Schmitz, about her motivation. Homeless people would be available for several apartments. They would receive extensive support from the activists, including lawyers and the promise to pay fines if the action came up.
However, the occupations are not really quiet. The activists have announced that the actions will be broadcast live. Starting in the afternoon, streams from the apartments will run on Twitch. Different social problems in the light of the corona crisis are to be addressed, it is about refugees and homeless people, about people who now have no more money for their tenants or about holiday apartments.
They found many vacant apartments, says Schmitz. “Owing to the rental cover, landlords are holding apartments back and AirBnB apartments are not only wrong now, but they are also no longer used.” It is “cynical that people live on the street at the same time”.
New activism mediated
In times of demonstration bans, this combination of tangible activism and online mediation via live streaming is a new approach. At the beginning of the stream, a text panel can be seen: “No contact. Ban on assembly. Sharp exit restrictions. It seems we have to cut back all our political activism in times of Corona. But it doesn’t have to be that way. ”Schmitz speaks of a“ media spectacle ”, and also says:“ We are only traveling in teams of two and three for our own safety. ”
The occupation actions are part of the Housing Action Day. Originally, a broad alliance of rent policy actors wanted to take tens of thousands of people onto the streets for solidarity-free urban development this Saturday without evictions and evictions. Due to the ban on the demo, the organizers called for online protests and a noise concert from balconies and from windows.
The #besetzen alliance occupied an empty apartment building in Neukolln for the first time almost two years ago. In the last campaign to date at the end of September, the activists had entered an empty building on Frankfurter Allee and had managed to negotiate the future use of the house.
Discussions about occupations or confiscations have gained momentum in the past few weeks in the corona crisis. In Berlin, rent policy organizations demanded in an open letter that homeless people should be accommodated in hotels and holiday apartments. The rent activists received backing from the capital. H&M, Adidas and Deichmann have announced that they will no longer pay rent for their closed shops. They too are now among the occupiers.