STA, 19 January 2022 - Members of an autonomous social and cultural community that had squatted the defunct Ljubljana bicycle factory Rog for years before being forcefully removed from the premises a year ago warned at a press conference on Wednesday of what they perceive as shrinking of the public space. They also reiterated that the eviction had been illegal.
Addressing the press to mark the first anniversary of the eviction, the squatters said that many of them had lost their home during the eviction, a place to create and work, while in a wider sense an important hub for promoting self-organisation, developing a critical, anti-authoritative thought and solidarity and support has been lost.
They believe Rog was "one of the last strongholds of the culture of living that is not, cannot and will not be a commodity".
The Rog premises were not empty when the demolition started and the Ljubljana municipality crashed into the building without a court order or a bailiff, they said, adding that the police had participated in this illegal activity, preventing residents from accessing their belongings and animals.
They claim that the municipality then tried to conceal the crime by misleading the media and launching a smear campaign against the "victims of the mayor's violence".
Many Rog squatters have lost everything in the ruins, including trust, and nothing has happened in the past year that would restore their trust in the city's policies.
They still do not know where to find their belongings, and finding a place to live and work that would at least to some extent compensate for what has been lost has become increasingly difficult.
"The city is becoming increasingly closed as a public space, controlled and cleansed of any 'anomalies', so many of us feel like we no longer belong here," they stressed.
A rally against social cleansing of the city has been announced for 6pm in the Tabor park to point to privatisation of public space in the city, and adjusting to tourism and other businesses while citizens, especially those who are not well-off are increasingly being pushed to the margins and the social bottom.
A group of culture workers joined the activities marking the anniversary of Rog eviction. They said the rally would be a "political campaign, which will also present art installations, performances and other ways of expression to show how public space can be filled and clearly say that the city belongs to the people not the interests of the capital".
The Ljubljana city authorities launched construction work on the site of the former Rog factory on 19 January 2021. Squatters were forcefully removed from the premises with the help of police. In April the public institute Rog Centre was founded.
The new Rog Centre is to house more than 500 artists and creative groups at more than 8,000 m2, according to the municipality. It will also feature 20 new production halls that will be available for short- or long-term use to different production groups.
The project has been estimated at EUR 27.6 million.