According to a post on Sydney Indymedia, an attempt at starting a new anarchist-run squat has been thwarted by NSW riot police.
Ideally the building could have been transformed into an open social centre, and we could have publicly announced our presence immediately with banners hanging down from the roof, celebrated with an opening party, created a public free shop, communal kitchen and free school. Unfortunately, due to Australia’s draconian trespass laws, and the lack of militant resistance, squatters have no legal rights. Any squat that publicly announces itself or is discovered by security or police, must generally prepare for an immediate eviction. Police have the right to evict, arrest and charge anyone squatting an abandoned building without even consulting with the owner.
Squatted social centers are proliferating all across Europe. Ordinary people are occupying empty buildings in urban areas, turning them into free, open and public space.
Alongside music and art collectives, concerts, food co-operatives and community gardens one also finds construction workshops, child care, language classes, political talks and even legal advice on social and economic rights.
These community activities are indicative of bourgeoning social and political autonomist movements, emerging from within the walls of these occupied buildings.
Watch this, urban publicization of, space.
Okupación will be screened at venues across Melbourne over the next week.
Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW) are a direct action group that was established in 2003 in response to the construction of the wall Israel is building on Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank. The group works in cooperation with Palestinians in a joint popular struggle against the occupation.
“On the front walls of the Pankoaki Brotherhood building (a nationalistic Greek association) was painted: “SOLIDARITY WITH THE GREEK UPRISING”. On the fence next door was painted something about the Australian situation: “REVENGE 4 TERRENCE D BRISCOE, FIRE TO THE PRISONS”, a reference to a recent Aboriginal death in custody in the NT: death via beating at the hands of the police.”
I have been involved in the Occupy Sydney camp, and along with a significant portion of my friends, have been extremely dissatisfied with the media coverage. To make it worse, the ‘individual’ (and I use the term loosely, perhaps I should say ‘socialist party’) spokespeople representing the movement have done a mostly terrible job of it. This is my attempt to bring forward some very important details that have been lacking.
Culture of entitlement
First amongst the common criticisms of the movement has been that we are spoilt brats, demanding iPhones and laptops while we are supported by the hard working taxpayer. The Daily Telegraph even went so far as to fabricate a list of demands that we supposedly made for port-a-loos, free parking, electricity and WiFi for our protest. Whilst we were sleeping without shelter under police restrictions, being denied access to public toilets, and fined when we went to find a discrete tree, and charging our phones from a solar panel that we had brought to the protest. We are demanding one thing, and that is the right to live, and to do things for ourselves.The reason we hadn’t already hired a port-a-loo was that the police had told us they would confiscate it if we tried, they attempted to confiscate our solar panel also, but it was rescued. Where the true culture of entitlement can be found of course is amongst the targets of our occupation (the banks) and those trying to shut us down (politicians and police). We are not alone in being criticised by people who could more accurately direct their vitriol towards themselves. On the back of a huge scandal where UK MPs claimed thousands upon thousands of pounds for hotels, furniture, rugs and toasters, the same MPs are criticising mostly poor black males who stole things such as a bottle of water and a loaf of bread. The very thing we are protesting against is this culture of entitlement that exists amongst the elite of our society. Even the powerhouse of the Australian economy, mining, is born of the sense of entitlement that our generation appears to have to the limited and finite resources on this planet. And what are we asking for? Just that the authorities tolerate a hundred or so citizens occupying a few dozen square metres of their own city.
It is unequivocally clear that corporate media perpetuates the hegemony of the capitalist state. Ideally, we respond by constructing forms of anarchist communication powerful enough to render the capitalist media irrelevant. However, amongst anarchist communities, occasions arise where individuals and collectives make decisions to engage with corporate media.
This engagement is often met with understandable concern, interest, derision and sometimes outright hostility. In this article then, I explore some of the tensions associated with media interaction by looking at a few brief examples. I conclude by suggesting that outright rejection of all interaction with corporate media limits some opportunities to reach a wider audience.
During the height of the Greek revolt in December 2008, a proposal was put forward at an anti-authoritarian/anarchist assembly in Exarchia, Athens: interrupt a major news broadcast by storming the studio, unfurl political banners, and then escape triumphantly into the streets. The proposal was generally not supported.
Some raised fears that this protest would ultimately serve the advertisers whose product appeared after the political action. Others were concerned that such an action would contribute to the spectacle of the mass media; where instead of living actual experiences, viewers watch representations of their life on t.v. and in doing so become politically neutralized spectators. And yet others were furious that comrades would want anything to do with the dogs of the mass media – they argued that any engagement with the mass media signalled nothing less than complicity with capitalism, the state, and corporate media.
Regardless, the next week a different collective went ahead with the proposed action targeting NET, one of Greece’s biggest TV stations. On December 16th, after manoeuvres reminiscent of an Ian Fleming novel, the 3pm live national news broadcast on the NET. channel was hijacked when activists stormed the studio. For two or so minutes, political banners were unfurled by a group of anarchists, anti-authoritarians and fellow non‑defined activists. They read:
Everyone get out in the streets, Freedom to the Prisoners of the Insurrection and Freedom to Everyone.
With the desired goals of the action met, the activists fled the building before the cops had a chance to finish their donuts.
I provide this short anecdote as a way of universalising some of the tensions associated with media interaction. Whether it is in the advanced anarchist milieu of Athens or – as I will shortly discuss – in Sydney, interactions with capitalist and state-owned media are everywhere fraught with complex political issues and are sources of tension.