Oslo police broke up the long-standing squatters’ community of Brakkebygrenda in Gamlebyen on Wednesday morning, after members of the self-described “ecological urban living alternative” ignored eviction notices. About 20 people were forcibly removed, and two were arrested after shooting fireworks at police.
Police used riot vans to block off the street, before officers and firefighters used chainsaws and wire cutters to enter the lot, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Occupants were given two minutes to leave. Some climbed onto roofs and trees to avoid capture, but police said the eviction went relatively calmly.
“We’re assisting the land owner and Enforcement Office with the eviction,” said Oslo police operation leader André Kråkenes. “Currently, two people are arrested for violence towards police. They shot fireworks at police.”
The eviction followed a court ruling in mid-March. Kråkenes said the action was the last resort and police had tried talking with the occupants, who had lived on the lot in wooden huts and caravans since 2000. “They have been decent to work with, but the dialogue has been unsuccessful in relation to moving out voluntarily,” he said.
The group sent out a social media appeal as soon as the eviction began. “Bbg is being attacked by police now and needs support against eviction! Spread!” the message read. Police said about 10 members of the anarchistic socialist youth group Blitz turned up to protest the eviction. Newspaper Aftenposten said there were unconfirmed reports to police that some of the sympathizers had thrown burning car tyres.
According to Brakkebygrenda’s Facebook page, the heritage building on the property had been badly damaged by fire and left in ruins by the owner. Neither the owner nor the Oslo municipality would take on the expense of restoring the building. The squatters moved into the ruins, setting up an “urban ecological project” until they were first evicted in 2008. When nothing happened with the lot, the squatters moved back in 2010.
The group said it aims to provide homes for vulnerable young people who can’t enter the housing market, remove the need to pay rent so people can pursue projects that aren’t motivated by earning capacity, reduce consumption and waste and encourage sustainable living. The site had a communal kitchen, vegetable and herb gardens, a greenhouse and bike workshop. “We have been an important part of creating cultural diversity in Gamlebyen,” the page read. “We squatters have taken far better care of the area than both the owner and the municipality. None of this has been acknowledged by either party.”
Not giving up
“It’s terrible to be thrown out of your home and what makes it worse is that the owner won’t use the area for anything,” Harald, who lived in Brakkebygrenda for more than three years, told NRK. “We believe it is the municipality who has threatened the owner over this. The municipality won’t get rid of us so easily.”
“The owner had no desire to throw us out, before the municipality threatened the owner with fines if we weren’t cast out,” said Brakkebygrenda in a press statement on its Facebook page. “This is a serious attempt by Oslo Municipality to knock down diversity in Oslo. We are not going to accept this. Oslo has been and will be a city where there is room for diversity. There will be room for underground culture and radical ecological living arrangements.”
“We have been hunted from St. Halvards gate 27, but we have not been hunted out of the city,” the statement read. “Oslo is full of empty houses and yards, so the ecological living project Brakkebygrenda is not going to disappear.