Saturday, April 09, 2011

Call for solidarity: Social Center Satama under threat of eviction (Helsinki, Finland)

April 6, 2011 Anarchist News

The situation at Social Center Satama is critical. The city of Helsinki is
threatening Satama and the Roma camp at the social center's yard with an
eviction. No one knows currently when the eviction will come - if it comes
- if the city will not agree on our conditions.

At this point the Roma living in the camp have said that a camp without
electricity in the yard of the social center is better than one under a
bridge. The Rescue Department has stated, that they will not accept the
camp in any way. To make sure that the Roma camp and Social Center Satama
stay, and that activities in both are possible to continue, it is crucial
to get as many people as possible to defend their existence. It is also
possible to create pressure on the city's officials by other means so that
they must make a political decision in favor of the social center and the
Roma people. All kinds of solidarity actions are more than welcome at this

We need the help of our friends and comrades to ensure that the outcome
will be victorious, but also pleasant. We hope to have you with us in
erecting barricades, helping in cooking, as well as playing music and
hanging out with us. Autonomous spaces are part of the cityscape and will
stay so!

We can expect anything from the city and the situation may change
dramatically soon, or this state of standoff may continue. To shed some
light on how this state of affairs came to be, here is some background:

The city of Helsinki got their best excuse to evict the Roma camp, which
has been a thorn in their side for several years, on last November, when
there was a fire in the yard of Social Center Satama. After this
unfortunate incident, the Rescue Department started harassing the camp.
Despite all efforts to improve the safety of the camp (e.g., arranging
training about fire safety for the Roma), the Rescue Department has
refused to cooperate with the social center. In the end the city pressured
the Roma to leave the country giving each 300 euros for travelling
expenses and stating that there is no place for them stay here.

About a month ago some Roma came to ask from Social Center Satama if the
camp in the yard could be re-opened. The answer was clear, as it has
always been - the Roma could camp in the yard and they could get
electricity from the social center. The city officials and the Rescue
Department responded quickly to the re-opening of the camp by stating that
the camp is not suitable for living as opposed to staying under a bridge
where you can't get running water or electricity for heating. Even though
we tried to negotiate with the Rescue Department to make improvements in
the safety of the camp, they were unanimous that the camp must be closed.
It seems obvious that behind this decision is the hostility of certain
leading officials of the city against the Roma and the social center. The
safety of delivering electricity to the camp has been improved all the
time, and the current arrangements have been approved by a professional
electrician. Still, the Rescue Department hasn't accepted it and they
state that the problem is in the user. Which basically means that they are
saying that Roma are incapable of using electricity.

Thus, after long negotiations with the Rescue Department on Thursday the
24th of March it seemed that an eviction was certain. Barricades to defend
the camp were erected immediately around the yard and many supporters of
the camp showed up. At this point though, the officials had not yet
requested for help from the police. In the end we agreed on a temporary
solution with the Rescue Department to house the Roma of the camp in the
social center over the weekend. In addition the Rescue Department removed
all vehicles from the yard and one trailer, so that no-one could live in
it, and made sure that it's not possible to drive into the yard. The deal
was in many ways stupid, and didn't improve the safety of the camp or the
social center in any way, as it also made it impossible for emergency
vehicles to drive into the yard.

After the weekend the social center stopped being a "fire safe" space
during the nights and the Rescue Department was again in favor of evicting
the camp. The barricades were re-erected and made stronger, and the people
of the social center began to guard the camp to keep police and other
unwanted types away. At the same time the city continued talking about
"solving the problem", without achieving anything. Jarmo Räihä, the
so-called Leading Expert from the Social Services Department, who is
appointed by the mayor, Jussi Pajunen, into a working-group about Roma
affairs, managed to screw up many times during the week. Räihä offered
accomodation for the Roma in a housing unit for homeless people, which was
already over-burdened. The Roma refused the deal, stating that they didn't
want to take space from other homeless people. After this, we turned on
the electricity to the camp, started renovating it and continued waiting
and preparing for an eviction.

On Thursday the 31st of March the Youth Department's Director Lasse
Siurola, told that he had requested the police to evict the camp. Later we
learned that the request had been illegal, as the landlord cannot evict
the tenants with the help of police without first changing the contract.
After this failed, the Rescue Department took yet again the role of the
harasser. After that we have been staying in the house and behind
barricades keeping an eye on police patrols and other "concerned citizens"
in the immediate vicinity of the social center.

On the morning of the 5th of April two officials came to discuss about the
situation. The officials were surprisingly rational and said that their
employer was against the camp, but also that the Rescue Department and
police are unwilling to have an eviction, as it would only mean that the
social center and the camp would be re-opened somewhere else or even at
the same location. They promised not to continue harassing us any longer,
but a couple of hours later a truck with a load of large blocks drove to
the yard in an attempt to fence off the yard. After a while the trucked
deemed it best to drive off.

The latest requirement from the Rescue Department is a 24/7 monitoring of
the social center and the yard, and sending the bill to the Youth
Department. We all understand that the Youth Department has better ways to
spend their money than to pay for the ridiculous surveillance of adults
around the clock.

The latest rumor is that the eviction is just around the corner, but as we
said, we can expect anything from the city.

For more info: and sosiaalikeskushki (at)

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