In Berlin, some thousand people gathered to squat the shut down innercity airport Tempelhof last saturday, 20th of june 2009. The event was understood as a major action against the gentrification (a political term used to denounce the process of refurbishment of houses and displacement of poorer people – through the raising rents – from the inner city districts) of the area. Local government plans to establish a park and some upper class houses, together with some kind of new media district.
It was prepared in a way that different kinds of participation would be possible: going in with force (opening the fence), going in when force has been used by others, or only diverting the security forces.
During the day people were walking around the airport, people with backpacks were checked, police was everywhere at the fence. Clowns were arrested for diverting cops and going towards barriers, some people were arrested for throwing flower seeds over the fence. Some black block people tried to tear down the fence with ropes and grapnels. Bystanders didn‘t divert the cops, so the black block were hindered from action immediately as cops showed up. First failed attempt.
In another area one person on bike was catched by a plain clothes cop (allegedly during an attempt to cut a hole). As the person lay on the floor black block persons ran to the situation and the cop showed his pistol (with opening towards ground).
Later the day there were two big manifestations announced. The crowd was to split up and make the attempt to go in. The split up was failing due to coordination flaws. In the southern gathering point 2 of the 3 colours to follow were not visible. So everybody went in one mass. Police lines were broken through by just running through them. Some people from the south mass went to the fence to open it. The big mass stayed with the music on the street and didn‘t support them. Second failed attempt.
Now street parties were everywhere (a bit away from the fence) and black block gathered for a riot on the northern street outside of the airfield. Nothing more happened, police had the whole situation under control and no one got near the fence.
The local government couldn‘t just open the field, since the ownership is still split, so reformist appeals towards them were irrelevant. The interesting factor for the activists would have been if the local people could be mobilized against the fence that stands for government control of the space. The symbolic content of this action should have been to intervene in the decision making process about one of the biggest inner city open areas in europe. So the constant talking about how hard the police acted and the scandalization of the fact that the police showed a gun to the black block just diverts from the fact that this mobilization failed. It failed because the participants announced they were right with their demands and that they have the legal right to participate in the decision making process, and now feel being treated in an injust way. But this right would in any ways be something that is not existing, because it is only existing in the way of plebiscites that are not officially binding for the local government. Tearing down the fence would have been nothing else than an symbolic act of direct democracy in the normality of capitalist city development.