The Rote Flora is a social center in Hamburg and was occupied in 1989. There were several attempts to evict the building to get rid of this autonomous project and at the moment there is another attempt to end the occupation. The Rota Flora and supporters are preparing to fight against the eviction, in the past they won many battles and they will fight to win this battle as well.
Last week the district council of Hamburg Altona decided a new development plan for the Rote Flora. The new plan stipulate that the Rote Flora will stay a cultural center in the future. Politicians say that this development plan secures the future of the Rote Flora as an occupied project in its current status. The occupants have no trust in the scope of this measure and focus on their own strength and political networking because the investors Baer and Kretschmer have precise plans for the demolition and construction of a new building and for this reason their aim is to evict the building. The investors already announced that they wil file a lawsuit against the new development plan of the Altona district council.
Video: Demonstration for Rote Flora in 2011
The current situation of Rote Flora in Hamburg
Since the middle of this year the situation of the occupied Rote Flora is coming to a head. The rumours that formal owner of the building, Klaus Martin Kretschmer, has been spreading about the end of the occupation since 2009 have reached another dimension as he now has precise plans for the building. In August the project group of Kretschmer held a press conference in which they annouced plans to end the occupation and to use the building for commercial purposes. Several investors and the real estate investor Gert Baer support the project.
Because of this threat a general assembly took place in which the 400 participants called for nationwide and international solidarity actions. Before some new financial backers start to dream about new high profits nationwide headlines and deterrence will create a negative image for investors and make them clear that such a development plan will cause more damage than it will generate profits.
Never ending story? Investor dreams versus autonomous reality…
As Kretschmer bought the Flora in 2001 his motivation was to get the prime spot in the center of the Schanzen neighbourhood for the give-away price of 370 000 Deutsche Mark and to make huge profits after the binding contract expires. Maybe he even believed that he could influence the economic exploitation of the project. Because of the unambiguous refusal of the users of the building to cooperate this calculatio ended up in smoke. Despite the controversies that are popping up every now and then and all contradictions between the demand as a non-commercial domination free space and reality, the Rote Flora persistently continues to exist as an occupied project. Lately we succeeded to increase Flora as a starting point and a point of crystallization for politcal movement in the city and our neighbourhood and to achieve more visibility again.
Because of his precarious financial situation Kretschmer tried to make a public issue of selling the Rote Flora since 2009. On one hand he was always looking for external financial backers and on the other hand he tried to blackmail the city with his plans to put them under pressure to buy the building back. This strategy completely failed. The buy price of five millions has been proven as way to high, the city aborted the negotiations. Increased activities of resistance (not only by the autonomous scene) as the contracts expired in 2011 made clear that an evicton without massive resistance will be impossible.
In this situation the real estate investor Gert Baer from Hamburg provided Kretschmer the capital he needed to pay his debts. In return Baer received the Rote Flora. As far as we know Kretschmer is still the formal owner of the building but nowadays he only functions as a straw man.
Against all the official statements by politicians there are no judicial obstacles for an economically lucrative exploitation of the building and land of the Rote Flora at the moment. Although there is a push to change the development plan, appropriate conditions for the use of the Rote Flora solely as a district cultural center are not valid yet.
That is the core of the strategy of Gert Baers and the financial backers behind him. They speculate that if they play hardball with a lawsuit against the dispossession in favor of the occupiers could be succesful. In expectation of huge profits the international operating Baer is ready to take a conflicht with the Rote Flora and its supporters into account. This information gradually came to light in the past weeks. After first media reports there was a general assembly and a press conference by Rote Flora and in Hamburgs neighbourhood where the swells live there was an “autonomous fashion show”.
Under time pressure and under pressure of the public opinion Baer and Kretschmer let the bomb explode. In a press release they announced that they will build a 6 floor high building with a concert hall with an intergrated district cultural center, offices, a daycare facility for children and a 3 floor underground parking lot. The concert hall will have a capacity of 2500 visitors. Allegedly they already have an investor from the USA who will finance this absurd project.
Apparently they want to found a stock corporation and they even thought about the users and supporters of the Rote Flora: If they renounce critique of capitalism and violence it would not be impossible to rent spaces for cultural events.
In their press release Baer and Kretschmer criticize that the Havenstraße was not evicted in the eighties and declare the Rote Flora to a contrary political modell. Their goal is to demoralise the squatting scene and to prevent new occupations by smashing Rote Flora and giving no prospects for new occupations. Ideological their attack is not only against Rote Flora as an individual local project but they understand their commitment as a political statement against squatting altogether. In German mainstream newspaper “Süddeutschen Zeitung” Baer labeled the hundreds of users of the house as a “criminal and terrorist organisation.”
Video: Demonstration on May 9, 2007, after a police raid in the Rote Flora
The attack against the Flora has started. Apart from longsome judicial complaints and trials the formal owner could also evict the building in a hit and run style by a private security company. Even a “hot restoration” , by torching the building cannot be excluded.
We will not rely on reassurances by politicians. Restoration- and development plans can change just like the attitude of politicians and media can. In the old days the Rote Flora and the autonomous movement were the incarnation of evil now “Bild and “Welt” are seriously suggesting the city to buy the Rote Flora to donate it to the occupiers. Such a U-turn, which reflects the position of the political parties who reject an evicition of the Rote Flora – can turn again in the other direction at any time. Furtermore this position is not coming out of nowhere. Its the result of versatile actions and protests, of solidarity and resistance far beyond the autonomous scene.
Furthermore the intention of the governing senat seems to be to get themselves out of the political fireline. Inconvenient decisions are regulated by privatisations while the politicans wash their hands in innocence. This reminds not only to the Esso houses which are threatened to be demolished but also to the struggle around Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen.
Thats why Rote Flora always have put straight that the current conflict first of all is a conflict about city and society. The struggle is not about a few walls at Schulterblatt. Its part of and refers to the conditions that surround it. For us the struggle for flora is not only to preserve the house, but the flora as a political project and political idea.
From the beginning Rote Flora was part of the “Recht auf Stadt” network (a grassroots network against gentrification). In march 2011 there was an action smash the title register, where not only the title register of Rote Flora symbolicly was smashed, but also other contested projects in Hamburg. At a nationwide demonstration “We make our city ourselves” the most different city initiatives and struggles attended and were discussed. In the last couple of years there were militant interventions who were engaging to defend the Rote Flora. But there were also artists who where involved and the initiative “Not in our name” who organised a festival week and a manifest titled “I would keep it like it is”.
In the current situation we also understand the conflict to preserve the Flora as a noncommercial and self-determined occupied project as part of other struggles in the city. We also fight against the demolition of the Esso houses on the Reeperbahn, for a right to stay of all refugees and against racist controlls, against so called “danger areas” (where police harras people all the time), against repression and to keep Rote Flora incompatible.
With solidarity and strong movements who will not only have a defending attitude, but who will make a change of the conditions to a starting point we will prevent an eviction. With this statement we are inviting everybody to become part of this struggle. Spread this statement, support the practical work in this project, organise solidarity actions or solidarity events, visit us in Hamburg at the nationwide demonstration at December 21 und be part of the upcoming fights.
Original German text:
More information about the demo on December 21 (German)