“Occupy Es.col.a — You Can’t Evict an Idea” by Gui Castro Felga.
Today is a bad day to be a citizen of Porto. Heavily armed police forces forcefully evicted Es.col.a (‘School’), a previously abandoned and derelict midtown elementary school that for the last year has been successfully occupied and served as an impromptu community center for the Fontinha neighbourhood, in an old and impoverished part of Porto. Truth be told, I only visited once, and ended up spending a pleasant afternoon in the schoolyard, helping with the sorting and testing of old computers that had been donated, so that a public computer center could be set up. I did enjoy thinking such a thing could exist and work out.
City officials, of course, always maintained such an occupation was illegal, even going as far as making the absurd claim the school was “private City property”. In fact, the legality of the occupation is highly contentious, as it is public property (so it’s not the same as occupying one’s house, at all), and what’s intolerable is City Hall’s claim, which is, in my humble opinion, such a serious misinterpretation of what ‘City property’ means that it should be grounds for immediate resignation (if our beancounter of a president Rui Rio and their lot had any shame, that is). The truth is, City Hall — for eleven years in the hands of right-wing conservatives — just can’t allow a successful community occupation to exist. They just couldn’t handle the recent good press about Es.col.a, as the whole concept of communities making stuff is against the Coalition’s political dogma. They’ll rather leave the School unoccupied and falling to pieces for decades — something certainy speeded up by today’s wanton destruction perpertrated by the police and city firemen (a flourish of Farenheit 451 WTF-ness). Or perhaps they’ll open it once a year, allowing Time Out Magazine or some other brand to throw a lavish party there without having to clean up afterwards — and for that, there will be talk of ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepeneurship’, the same vocabulary so throughly denied whenever poorer people are in charge.
In a decent democracy, City Hall, Police and Fire Brigade officials would resign or be impeached because of their willing destruction of public property. In a liberal kleptocracy, empoverished people who see their safety nets sacrificed every day in the altars of Free Market just try to set themselves on fire.