STA, 22 January 2021 - Several associations have expressed support to members of an autonomous social and cultural community who were evicted from the defunct Ljubljana bicycle factory Rog earlier this week. The Slovenian PEN centre condemned the "brutal violence" with which there were evicted, while Mayor Zoran Janković rejected accusations.
Members of the PEN centre said the incident was "unbecoming of democratic Slovenia" just as the attitude towards a Radio Študent journalist, a retired Večer journalist, and writer Vesna Lemaič.
"Their mission to report and write about the developments was jeopardised in the most brutal way and thus freedom of speech was jeopardised, which is something we are particularly aspiring for in the spirit of the PEN Charter."
The centre regretted that dialogue had been completely abandoned and that "violence spoke instead". It called on the municipality to protect the personal items of the members of the community which they have been unable to take with them or pay them compensation, and foremost offer them new rooms.
"Their art is the soul and image of our capital Ljubljana, which encourages culture and is UNESCO's city of literature. Dialogue is undoubtedly the only democratic way to a solution to this problem," the centre said.
Nova, mogoče zadnja alineja v zgodovini tovarne in Tovarne Rog, simbola avtonomije, kreativnosti, solidarnosti in koles.https://t.co/dr8sj3TmAv#tovarnarog #Ljubljana #občina pic.twitter.com/YHOSV0MhFb— Vsakdanjik (@vsakdanjik) January 19, 2021
The Rog community was also supported by the local Ljubljana committee of the Left party, the Asociacija society, NGO Peace Institute, and the Association of Culture Workers.
The latter said the battle for Rog was a battle for "all of us who do not accept the dictatorship of the capital culture". It noted that the cultural community there was "precious not just for the city but also wider".
In the last 15 years, Rog has been a "centre of critical thought, a hub for social movements, a sanctuary for all those who are being marginalised by the capital", a "place of friendship, comradeship, ideas and projects".
"Rog has been a symbol of all those who are rejecting profit, gentrification, rightist violence, capitalist repression, Janšist Orbanisation," reads a press release issued by the association.
Author and artist Svetlana Makarovič said after the incident she was renouncing her title of honorary citizen of Ljubljana. In a statement for the STA on Thursday, she said she was "deeply hurt and outraged by the thoughtless and harsh eviction of Rog residents, especially because animals that had shelters there were also subjected to the violence."
Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković responded to the incident on Thursday, saying that nobody had been at the defunct factory at 7am on Tuesday, when workers accompanied by security guards entered the premises to start demolition with a construction permit after all attempts of mediation failed and based on all court rulings in favour of the municipality.
Supporters of the Rog community and members of the community started to gather in Trubarjeva Street later, and tried to enter the Rog area in a violent way, which police prevented, he said in a Facebook post, stressing that the violence had been provoked by those who wanted to enter Rog in a violent way.
He said that all items that are not owned by the municipality would be recorded and taken to the Snaga waste collection centre in Povšetova Street, where owners would be able to collect them after a prior notice.
The mayor said the municipality planned to build a new Rog culture centre that would provide rooms for more than 500 artists and creative groups on more than 8,000 square metres.