Squatting is in the news again. This time, as a consequence of a new UK law criminalizing the practice. In effect since November, the legislation could not have been passed at a poorer (to put it bluntly,) time. With the British economy in its fourth year of crisis, there was something especially cruel about the gesture. If you’re homeless, that’s your lot. Shelter is out of the question.
As an article in this week’s Guardian points out, however, not everyone squats for economic reasons. Or, at least, for immediate ones. Quite often, squatting is done for separate ideological purposes, not all of which have to do with housing.
One such example is the Verdi 15 squat, (which was evicted in October) in Turin. Occupied for a little over a year, the occupiers have since relocated themselves to a new address in the city.
In keeping with Souciant’s ongoing series of European flyer translations, Giulia Pace has created an English-language version of Verdi 15’s manifesto-equivalent. Posted in several locations in central Turin this Fall, it does an excellent job of explaining the squat’s ideological mandate, as well as exemplifying, more broadly, how squatting functions as a political tool.
AGAINST THE CUTS TO EDISU [Organization for the Right of Higher Education] WE ARE TAKING BACK OUR RIGHTS!
RESIDENCE VERDI OCCUPIED
When students decided to occupy student residence Verdi 15, it was to contest the dismantling of the right to higher education carried on by the government, together with regional administration, through cuts of scholarships and students sleeping accomodations, and to propose an alterantive solution.
Today, after ten months, what is residence Verdi? By whom is it composed, and what is its activity?
Verdi 15 Occupied is not a university residence facing the accomodation emergency, but a struggling community, that has taken a leading role in several public protests and in projects aimed to create new spaces for social relations and exchange of ideas.
The primary aim was to obtain the restoration of scholarships for the 8, 000 students eligible but excluded.
Now, although the interest in defending the right of higher education in a public university, accessible for everyone, remains the founding element of the residence squat, in this crisis climate we have made new considerations about our role within the city as students, but also as workers and temporary employees, in our struggle against this government, able to speak only the language of profit and speculation. We have thus decided to join the protest movements carried on by those parts of society more strongly affected by the crisis.
We have supported social workers, teachers, families who have seen the elimination of nursery service and Gtt workers [Turin public transport company], victims of the cuts from [the] reorganization of [the] public transport system.
We feel part of those who are paying the consequences of PD [Democratic Party] misgovernment which, after having enriched speculators and its own party branches, is now hitting the services, rights and incomes of Turin population hard.
What better example of financial speculation than the TAV [High Speed Train] in Valsusa. It’s also behind the projects of these grand public works that takes place the dirty business among mafia, government and banks, hidden by the veil of progress and occupation.
At the beginning of academic year, our decisive refusal of the policy taken by ministers of education and work was expressed with the protest against these public figures during their popularity-aimed appereance at the opening ceremony of the new Einaudi campus.
The fabulous structure, so boasted about by [the university0, soon after the opening, is already at the centre of the students’ complaints, that denounce a lack of equipment and of capacity rooms, demonstrating thus an umpteenth waste of public money.
After all, there is nothing surprising about this, because, again in this situation, we find the hand of Intesa San Paolo Foundation that has carved up another slice of the University of Turin, and whose intention is to introduce us to the debt system through honour loans.
Instead of providing a public and free education, ministers and bankers, leaders of this technocratic government, have thought to lend the money needed for higher education, so to get it back with interest after graduation.
We do not intend to share our life with these economic powers creeping into universities and cities.
In a urban context with always less accessible public services, here we are, proposing, within the residence, spaces for social activities, meetings and confrontation, in order to demonstrate that a world free from the logic of profit is possible, and that starting from the bottom up, and getting in the game, we can exchange opinions and skills.
The activities that keep this occupation alive are conducted in the spirit of self-management and sharing: from debate on current news to cinema discussions, from the bicycle repair shop to the popular gym, from the language course to the social dinner, from the theatre to the circus, ending with Thursday evening appointments to spend some time together!
Verdi 15 Occupied does not aim to be the solution for institutional inefficiencies. It wants to be as a model of re-appropriated space.
LET’S TAKE BACK WHAT’S DUE, LET’S CREATE [A] NEW “VERDI” IN EVERY CITY!
Translated from the Italian by Giulia Pace. Introduction and photos by Joel Schalit.