Police in heavy riot gear Friday cleared squatters from a building in east Berlin known as a center for leftist activists, as a large, loud but mostly peace crowd protested the action.
Police in riot gear could be seen leading – or sometimes carrying – residents down ladder-like steps from an upper level of the Liebig 34 building in the capital’s Friedrichshain neighborhood, named after its address, Liebigstrasse 34. Police entered the building from there after being refused entry at ground level.
The graffiti-covered building has become a symbol for the left-wing scene in the German capital. It has been partially occupied for 30 years by squatters, and the current residents had a 10-year agreement with the property owner who refused to renew it when it expired in 2018. He began a court process that resulted in Friday's evictions.
Police, who feared violent protests from the eviction, called in about 1,500 police which were deployed around the city. Germany’s Deutsche Welle news service reports protesters threw glass bottles and fireworks at officers within a closed-off zone adjacent to the building.
The police say that overnight, protesters burned tires, garbage dumpsters and set fire to the Tiergarten metro station building. But the spokesman said the protesters were otherwise peaceful as they cleared the building Friday.
Occupants of the building say Liebig 34 has offered a place of refuge for women, trans and intersex people since 1999. An autonomously run bar and cultural center allowed the occupants to raise funds to cover rent.
A lawyer for the occupants of the building told the French news agency they plan to appeal the eviction, saying the landlord acted unlawfully in limiting his contract to 10 years. He also said it went against human rights to put people on the street in the middle of a pandemic.