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Tobi Jochum: Conquering Mediaspree

On Saturday, a large-scale anti-Mediaspree protest with over 2000 participants took place in Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain – despite a few interruptions of police brutality...

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Photo by Tobi Jochum

On Saturday, a large-scale anti-Mediaspree protest with over 2000 participants took place in Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain – despite a few interruptions of police brutality. Mediaspree, the ever-looming monster project to privatize the Spree shores from Jannowitzbrücke to Treptower Brücke, is one Berlin’s most controversial investment plans: in a 2008 residents poll, a whopping 87 percent of respondents opposed it.

The two marches started at Kottbusser Tor and Boxhagener Platz and eventually met on Oberbaumbrücke, then dispersed into decentralized events, such as the symbolic, day-long occupation of future Mediaspree construction sites. The somewhat schizophrenic activist crowd mixed local punks, grim leftists and Berlin old-timers all radically opposed to even rudimentary forms of **Kiez** ‘upgrading’ with more mellow borderline-hipsters and Berlin newcomers – themselves harbingers and beneficiaries of ‘evil’ gentrification.

Unlike, say, the ones on May 1, these protests were decidedly not aimed at pissing off the cops. Perhaps Berlin’s boys in green felt neglected after a while, with only subtle mockery and sarcastic asides from the loudspeaker truck to take offense at? At Oberbaumbrücke, they decided to spice things up a little by violently charging through the crowd by the dozens to mount the vehicle and cut off its loudspeakers; everyone nearby was treated to multiple rounds of pepper spray. Two protesters were arrested to shouts of “You are only well-paid hooligans!” As the event moved on, the activists celebrated a minor victory when they successfully circumvented a chain of riot police and K9 units to occupy the abandoned lot on Cuvrystraße. This urban meadow towered over by two enormous graffiti murals (by the well-known artist Blu; both feature prominently in several books about Berlin street art) is to be turned into a large supermarket. When the police realized the absurd futility of further protecting the front entrance, they withdrew, but continued to fend off protestors in other areas and make further arrests. The protestors celebrated until long after dark with BBQs, electronic beats and dancing (you know the drill!).

Authoritarian police conduct, especially if framed in the context of peaceful protests versus un- or misused property, will only garner further public support and media attention. It remains to be seen how the red-red city senate and its private investors are going to react, if at all. The upteenth round of protests has only just begun, the organizers insist, and more events are already in the making.

McDonald’s and Subway already successfully infiltrated Kreuzberg, rents continue to be on the rise, and 2010 is actually finally definitely (supposed to be) Bar 25’s last summer. The broader process seems all but inevitable – who is going to be **less** Neoliberal than Berlin’s left-left government?) – but it’s good to know that its opponents are not going down without a fight.