STA, 19 January 2020 - Members of an autonomous social and cultural community that have been squatting the defunct Ljubljana bicycle factory Rog for years are being forcibly removed from the premises on Monday as construction work started on the site.
The Ljubljana authorities confirmed they had started tearing down buildings on the site as part of the long running efforts to remake the rundown site into a new creative hub.
Representatives of one of the activist organisations squatting the compound told the STA security guards dragged people out of the building with police standing watch, while the rtvslo news webs site reported police used tear gas against some individuals.
The Ljubljana Police Department (LPD) confirmed for the STA that the owner of the premises was carrying out construction work on the site, initially with the help of security guards.
Tovarna ROG:sesuvanje avtonomnega prostora?? pic.twitter.com/rvWVlnaFgC— Društvo AREAL (@ArealDrustvo) January 19, 2021
The police were called in as persons gathering on the premises would not follow the guards' instructions, the LPD said, adding they had established violations of the public peace and order on the site and persons who did not follow police orders were fined.
The police said construction and security services had secured the building and checked whether there were persons inside to set up a building site. "The public order has been established and police will stay on the site to ensure it remains that way," the release said.
Video footage available online shows fences being put up and individuals being handcuffed and taken away by the police as some of the onlookers carried banner saying We're not giving up Rog.
The city, which has included the Rog makeover project in its 2021 budget, has been trying to take possession of the premises for years, including through courts. It most recently tried to evict the squatters in 2019 after winning a court battle against several of them.
"Having been notified in recent weeks that Rog is empty, we took possession of the premises, which are property of the Ljubljana municipality, today," the city authorities said.
They added that they had started demolishing work based on a development permit and "environmental remedy of the site, which is seriously degraded and dangerous" due to galvanic residues and structural instability of the buildings.
They are planning to publish a tender within a month to pick a contractor to renovate Rog, announcing that a new Rog Centre would be completed within two years to provide "premises to more than 500 creators and creative groups on 8,000 square metres of modern production space".
"By revitalising the site we will acquire a new creative meeting point and a hub linking the city centre, the Metelkova cultural centre, the new Cukrarna Gallery and Cukrarna Palace," they added.
In response to the developments, the local chapter of the Left party protested against what it called a renewed attack by the city authorities on the autonomous Rog plant, accusing the mayor of abusing the epidemic, also against NGOs helping those affected by it.
The party said the mayor secured an additional EUR 1.8 million for the Rog project in the revised city budget passed yesterday, while "social and education programmes that have been enriching the city for years will be erased [...] and alternative culture disabled".