Portugal: ‘You Cannot Evict an Idea' Without Borders

by Sara Moreira, in Global Voices

The violent eviction of a self-managed community center in Porto by the police, on April 19, 2012, triggered a wave of solidarity beyond the borders of the former working-class neighborhood of Fontinha, left to oblivion for years.After 15 police cars arrived with masked and armed riot police to evict the project (three participants were arrested and five were injured), and emptied the school destroying all material in the building (such as books, computers and furniture), only to board up doors and windows in the end, around 300 people took to the streets in Porto, and several dozens more in Lisbon.

The events opened the newscasts on TV, and social media was buzzing with reactions; the hashtags #Fontinha and #ocupai trended on Twitter in Portugal.Building on an ideaEs.Col.A (meaning school) [an acronymn for self-managed collective space, pt] was formed on April 2011, by a group of citizens who squatted a public school that had been abandoned by the municipality of Porto in 2006. Journalist Nuno Ramos de Almeida reported [pt] on April 20, that there are more than 25,000 housing buildings in the city left abandoned (about one in every five, which can be seen in this illustrative photo report) - many of them under the responsibility of the City Hall.Under the slogan “Free spaces, create alternatives”, the collective proposed to bring back to life a disused building with after-school classes, communal food and recreational activities (ranging from yoga, music and capoeira, to film and debates). All based in principles of self-organization, free accessibility, non-discrimination, and practices of direct democracy and consensus through weekly Popular Assemblies.Check the whole text, more pictures and videos on Global Voices.Es.Col.A's blogEs.Col.A's arts group blog