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Postcard from... Hamburg



“Anyone who buys this must like stress” are the words daubed on a banner flying from Germany’s longest surviving squat. “Red Flora” is a 125-year old former concert hall in Hamburg’s hip Schanzenviertel district. It has been occupied by left-wing squatters since 1989 and ten days ago they showed the good burghers of Hamburg what they mean by “stress”.

Plans to evict them were met with a mass demonstration involving militant left-wing and anarchist groups from across Germany. Protesters torched cars and showered police with stones, bottles and fireworks. Police responded with water canon, baton charges and tear gas. More than 120 police officers and an estimated 500 demonstrators were injured. Like many other alternative cultural centres in Germany, “Red Flora” is seen as a “Custer’s last stand” against speculators bent on heartless gentrification.

“Red Flora’s” owners have declared that they want to turn the building into a cultural centre, but their intentions have been drowned out. Neither does the violence show much sign of abating. Politicians are now calling for police to be equipped with rubber bullets. The police trade union says its does not rule out the qualified use of live ammunition.