Wuppertal Germany – Connecting struggles: The city belongs to us all!

0
Banner at a bridge in Wuppertal: "AZ stays at Gathe! - Out to May 1 - 18:00 (06:00pm) at Gathe / AZ"

Banner at a bridge in Wuppertal: “AZ stays at Gathe! – Out to May 1 – 18:00 (06:00pm) at Gathe / AZ”

As reported earlier there is growing resistance against several construction projects in the city of Wuppertal, Germany. The city council rejected 13.000 signatures for a referendum about the construction site “Döpperberg,” although according to state law only 11.000 signatures were needed. There is also growing resistance against other construction sites, like the new Ikea project and a project at Gathe – Markomannen street. The last project is a direct threat for the Autnomous center in Wuppertal. Activists are now trying to connect all these struggles to develop a coalition of resistance. They have put out a call for people to take the streets on May 1: “The city belongs to us all!  Out to Autonomous May 1st!”  The Mayday mobilisation will also be the start of the “AZ (Autonomous Center, editor) will stay at Gathe!” campaign. 

 

Demonstration in Wuppertal at April 12. Banner says: "The city belongs to us all!"

Demonstration in Wuppertal at April 12. Banner says: “The city belongs to us all!”

After the Wuppertal City council rejected the will of the 13.000 people who called for a referendum about the Döppersberg construction site earlier this month, there was a demonstration “against the ignorance of the city government and for more participation of the people in Wuppertal!”  The people who marched through the city center were a very mixed group. Many of the protestors are active in various groups that are fighting against gentrification and construction plans in Wuppertal. The city of Wuppertal has a lot of debt, and new projects will have to be financed by even more austerity measures and privatisations. A mix of people, from the mainstream to the radical left, took the streets together. There were many speakers, and radical left speeches received approval by most of the participants. There was a call to build a “Right to the city – The City belongs to us all” platform, and all participants were invited to come to an info event “The city as a piece of booty,” which took place on April 16, and had many attendants.

Demo in Wuppertal at April 12. Sign says: "We residents demand transparency and participation."

Demo in Wuppertal at April 12. Sign says: “We residents demand transparency and participation.”

Tenants fight against privatisations and rising rents, the extra costs of the construction site at Döppersberg, the situation around the rotting theater “Schauspielhaus” (while empty after the city government closed the theater), the plans for the construction of a new Ikea branch, the plans for  the expansion of the City Arkaden shopping mall (owned by ECE, owner of many shopping malls worldwide, this company was also the company that planned the postponed shopping mall at Gezi park in Istanbul), but also the growing pressure on the autonomous center (AZ) (which will have to move according to construction plans), are all struggles that can be connected. All these struggles will be more powerful if they form a coalition and support each other. Investors and a city government that doesn’t care about the needs of its residents will fear such a coalition, and could lose this fight.

There is no gentrification process in Wuppertal that is in the scope of say Düsseldorf or Cologne, but similar developments are taking place. Like in the big cities of Germany, the city government is treating the city as an object which exists to maximize profits. More and more rental flats are privatised and serve as a capital investment. Rents are rising because of these developments which force more and more people to leave the center of the city.

Döpps 105 meets AZ

On the eve of April 30, a night dance demo will be the start of this years mayday mobilisations in Wuppertal. Its the start of the “AZ (autonomous center) stays at Gathe!” campaign. The Gathen is one of the main streets in northern part of the city center of Wuppertal. The autonomous center is under threat of eviction because of DITIB construction plans. The autonomous center is a self-organised free space. It’s a place where people can organise themselves (sometimes for a short period of time, sometimes over years) and work together on cultural, political and other projects. What they will do is being decided by the people who are involved. The center is a non-commercial space, that people can use without having to pay for it.

 Last year the autonomous center celebrated its 40th anniversary. Since the year 2000, the autonomous center has been located at the Markomannenstrasse 3, directly at the Gathe. The center in the northern part of the city center was fought hard for in the eighties, partly with militant methods. The buildings where it was located before 2000 were also in the northern part of the city center. The people there know the autonomous center and many of them appreciate it.

The "hot" mobilisation phase has begun. A poster for the Autnomous May 1 Demo in the streets of Wuppertal.

The “hot” mobilisation phase has begun. A few posters for the Autonomous May 1 Demo in the streets of Wuppertal.

There are regular bulky waste parties, where activists protect locals from city officials who prohibit people from taking items like old furniture from the streets (which is being put there to be picked up by the refuse disposal service the next morning). Many people who do not have enough money to buy these items are able to collect what they need because of the bulky waste parties, which are organised by activists of the autonomous center. The peoples kitchen which is open every Wednesday, is a place where people can eat for a donation or for free if they have no money at all. These are only 2 of the activities in the center. There are also many concerts, informative seminars, and solidarity events as well as other various activities organised in the autonomous center. The center plays an important role in many struggles in Wuppertal and beyond. The autonomous center played a key role in the massive resistance against nazi demos in the city. Beyond that, groups from the autonomous center are fighting against the Nazis and their infrastructure in the city on a daily basis. In the autonomous center, there are also groups fighting against austerity and who are active in other political struggles.

Video: Activists of the autonomous center played a key role in organising resistance against several Nazi demos in Wuppertal. Here’s a video (in English) from September 2013

Activists produced a newspaper to inform and mobilise people. The news paper has 10.000 copies which will be spread for free in Wuppertal.

Activists produced a newspaper to inform and mobilise people. The news paper has 10.000 copies which will be spread for free in Wuppertal.

Long before the current initiative “Döpps 105” began their fight against the extra costs of the Döppersberg construction site, other groups were fighting against this project. Activists of the autonomous center were engaged in the Basta action coalition and tried to prevent the project. Now the autonomous center itself is under pressure. The autonomous center has to give way for an islamic center (although the islamic center could be built next to the autonomous center, with both centers existing as neighbours). City officials stated that the autonomous center might “only” have to move to another building, but its completely unclear in which building they mean. That’s because there is no other building in the nothern part of the city center available for the autonomous center to move to. Furthermore, the city did not make a concrete official offer or proposal. The only thing that is getting more and more concrete are the construction plans for the corner of the Markomannen street and Gathe, where the autonomous center is located at the moment. The city government also wants to increase the value of this part of the city. This is an opportunity for powers within the city governemnt and city council to get rid of the autonomous center once and for all.

Autonomous May 1 demo in Wuppertal in 2012. Banner says: Not one day without the autonomous center!"

Autonomous May 1 demo in Wuppertal in 2012. Banner says: Not one day without the autonomous center!”

Its time to connect all these “Right to the city” struggles. The many activists in the various groups that we mentioned above might be very different and might have different opinions, but they also have many points which they agree on. They resist against a city policy which only maximizes profits for investors and has no regard the people who live in Wuppertal anymore. Just like in many other cities on our planet. The differences between these people and groups can also become their strengths: diversity! The different forms of resistance can compliment each other, and would put the city government under pressure on different levels. All different groups can do their own actions, but at the same time they can also participate in a “Right to the city – The city belongs to us all” coalition and plan and organise campaigns together. This broad approach would increase the possibility of reaching our objective: A city for all to live in, and not an object to sell to the highest bidder.

After the demo on April 12 and the info event on April 16, activsts did several banner drops and produced a newspaper to inform and mobilise people. There are 10.000 copies of the newspaper, which will be spread for free in Wuppertal. On April 30 and May 1, activists will launch the “AZ (Autonomous Center) will stay at Gathe!” campaign.

The City belongs to us all! 

Take the streets – Out to Autnomous May 1!

18:00 (06:00pm) Gathe / Höhe AZ, Wuppertal, Germany

Video: Mobilisation clip for Autonomous Mayday Demo 2014 in Wuppertal, Germany:

The original article was published in German at the Eisbrecher Wuppertal blog:

http://eisbrecherwuppertal.wordpress.com/

About Author

Born near the city of Amsterdam I started filming, taking photos and writing for autonomous and other magazines in the 1980's in Amsterdam. Nowadays I write for Revolution News and several blogs in Germany. Sometimes I live in Germany, sometimes on Tenerife, Canary Islands.