Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A review of “Occupy and resist! Examining the European Social Center Tradition,” by spud

This reblog comes from the City From Below public blog about the session I co-chaired in Baltimore. Spud beat me to it… “Submitted by spud on Sat, 03/28/2009 - 21:11. in [subject] * squatting social centers:
“I [that is, spud] attended this session in the basement of the Village Learning Place this afternoon. I arrived a few minutes late, and the smallish room was crowded to capacity. By the time I arrived, questions were already being taken from audience members, and there couldn't have been too much time for any lengthy presentation before that. I assume that it was intentional to have organized the workshop in an informal, conversational manner.
“Because there exists such a huge discrepancy between squatting in the US and squatting overseas [I disagree, but of course I’ll have my turn…], a fair amount of discussion revolved around the legal and strategic issues involved in moving into an abandoned space without immediate eviction. (The answer, broadly speaking, is two-fold: 1. don't announce yourselves if you don't have to, and hope to avoid detection, or [er, "and"] 2. build yourself a solid base of support amongst both your neighbors and the community you hope to build.)
“Both of the presenters, Alan Moore and Lynn Owens, are essentially researchers, and needed to defer to the first-hand expertise of audience members in a number of cases -- a woman from Barcelona and a long-time squatter in Rome provided helpful information about their specific experiences.
“Four other audience members, hailing from Durham, NC, chimed in with the hope of hearing more about the actual organizational structure of the Social Centers in Europe (but very little response was offered). These attendees belong to a self-styled "Social Center" in Durham and were hoping for tips from their analogs in Europe. They received none, but their description of their own organization, El Kilombo was itself inspiring.
“Overall, an interesting conversation, but not very useful in terms of any strategic information, and it seemed like a lot of questions went unanswered, though they raised enough points for a much longer session.”
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Yes, Spud, you are right! [That’s me.] Our presentations were deliberately very short. The question is, What are the questions? That is not to be flip, but only to say that a strategic casebook, a "best practices" kind of compendium of what we need to know about EU social centers, is some ways off. And it begins with the questions you ask. I was delighted that the Roman woman responded directly to a question from the audience, something like, "How does a big social center run?" That's pretty vague... her answer was succinct but short. Hey, we are on our way! -- Alan W. Moore

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