Joe Reynolds’ words and photographs tell a squatter’s tale on the violence of eviction, using ghosts, dogs, legal battles, health problems and chaos to explain a story that cannot be whispered.
Trigger Warning: This article contains numerous cases of copyright fraud that some readers may find distressing. I am currently on the run from the Mickey Mouse lawyers of the Copyright Mafia.
After over a year of lockdown and the demand to stay at home, this year has also been an opportunity for landlords and courts to push through evictions and put people out on the streets.
Since lockdown, every place I could call a home has either been evicted or is on the edge of eviction. From Pirate Platz and Castillo Parasito in Catalonia to the Syndikat and Meuterei in Berlin. This has taken energy out of activists, squatters and supporters and I admit it is fucking depressing. So in the interests of mental health, this gonzo investigation follows part one (Independence from What?), through the ghosts of the Spanish Civil War and the 1969 social movements in Germany to examine the violence of eviction. And a dog, there’s a dog in it too.
Accompanying this story are the words of Pepita Carpena, anarchist propagandist for the Mujeres Libres. She was interviewed in 1997 by Isabella Lorusso, for her book Fighting Women which documents the voices of revolutionary women in the Spanish Civil War, published by Freedom Press.
~ Dedicated to Markus Triebe, who died at the age of 30 on January 8th 2021 in the doorway of a home in Neukölln, Berlin
At someone else’s door in Berlin, I hear a terrifying knock. This flat is due to be evicted and so knocks on the door in the middle of the night are to be expected. I open and a leather fist smashes me in the jaw, my teeth flying everywhere. I look up at the figure above me.
“Where’s the fucking money, Joe?” he squeaks at me, a leather boot coming down on my face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about Bob, I owe you nada,” I spit back.
“But you do my friend, you stole from me and now you must atone,” the fascist mouse screams back. “You think I give a fuck?” he goes on, “I just fired 32,000 people in the middle of a virus, hahahaha.”
“Bob that’s mad, how will people eat? How will they pay the rent?” I shout.
“Oh good. Say it again Joe, never let them forget. Someone’s gotta pay. You think I am going to pay? Haha go fuck yourself.” the mouse laughs.
“You’re not like on TV, what do you want from me? I have no money.” I speak in between shards of rhyming teeth.
“A story, idiot. But none of your usual anarcho-bullshit. I want a prince and a princess. I need something I can sell goddamn it. We are losing billions.”
He stands aside as a general walks through the door holding a bottle of gin. “We own Rupert Murdoch’s ass and now we own you too,” the mouse laughs. “You know what to do, Arbeit!!!”
The creatures are talking to me, I feel them in my ass. What did I want to say? My name is Miquel but the police call me Peter. Sometimes I have strange dreams.
I wake in the night and the creatures talk to me. I feel them bleed. My name is Miquel and sometimes I have bad dreams, I do not own trousers, no pantalon, no problema. The creatures are eating me, I talk to them with my asshole. Speak softly, I am only eating. What did I want to say?
The phone keeps ringing. Ring ring, Ring ring. What! Oh.
I don’t have a phone. Ring Ring. My documents are bleeding. What did I want to say? My name is Parasito, I live in your skin, I eat your trash. I am was not alive now. What I mean to say is I am not alive now. My name is Miquel Pedrola and and sometimes I have terrible dreams.
I met Francisco Franco, in a Condis in Andalusia. He was an ass. I think he overcharged me, I cannot be sure. I do have the receipt, it says Vendor; Francisco Franco. That’s all you need to know about Spain except something unbelievably fucked up! Listen, it didn’t start in Andalusia. It’s where we end up in conquest or pain.
The dogs are barking and we don’t know why. The waters polluted and we all know why. It’s here until the end of the world.
Ring Ring. Peter? Yes. The world is flat, it’s controlled by the CIA! The creatures tell me on the other side of the line. I can’t stop scratching. They tell me it is all run by the Illuminati … hahaha! They laugh under my skin. It’s unbelievably fucked up! I can feel a movement.
The bulldozers have dug up Franco, history has withdrawn and we are fighting in the rain. Oh Franco, where has my heart gone. Where are my friends?
She wakes up covered in sweat, every night it comes to her as confusion, it overwhelmed her in waves. I don’t know why, she thinks to herself, it doesn’t matter anyway. She was awake and the sky begins to brighten with the rising sun, the heat of the day was yet to come.
She waits patiently at the typewriter with a cigarette in between her lips. The cup of coffee cold but the confusion fading away as she reads over an article on the desk. The strike of a match ignites the text from the darkness.
“The experience of Pepita Carpena in the workers movement as well as the Mujeres Libres during the Spanish Civil War seems forwards-looking. The way in which they faced problems needed an independent female organisation while keeping in touch with political parties and mixed organisations, and this is precisely the differences between the Italian and French feminists.
Their feminist approach questions the family, the ideas of the left wing, men’s supremacy in the political and scientific sphere, the attitudes of women from allegedly developed countries. The family still acts as a shelter against the destructive effects of industrial society. The working class is poorly organised and is often exploited by political parties.
And in this context, the women’s wish for change is a strong political force that fights against conservative society.”
She stops reading as she hears American voices outside. Walking to the balcony, she watches five men walk down the street. They all had bad Italian accents and two of them were holding up a man dressed as a general, who was shouting in Arabic and holding a bottle of gin.
From across the street, two Guardia Civil officers watch. “We are the dictatorship of the proletariat,” one says to the other. “On,” the other corrects him.
“We are a dictatorship on the proletariat.”
I wake suddenly in a flash of light, heaving water from my lungs as I open my eyes. Water flows over the edge of the bath in massive puddles and air begins to enter my brain. ‘I just had another seizure’, I think to myself. Stepping out of the bath, I walk naked into the next room where the noise was coming from.
Inside, two musicians sit at a table of wires and boxes. The noise is a soft rising sound that sparks my mind. “What the fuck is this, what am I looking at here?” I ask the one with the beard.
“The most simple way to describe this is imaginary time,” the bearded one speaks. “All the wires are on the outside, you can plug anything to anything. I can plug you together to behave normally or I can plug you in the wrong way and make you do things you’re not supposed to do.”
“Even if it looks quite a mess,” the one with hair adds, “it is this learning by doing process. Even if you got a theory in mind, with all the possibilities you got, it is actually finding your path by doing it.” I feel a rising sensation in my spine, the rush of connections in my mind map out like music and noise.
“In the end,” his voice comes in and out in waves, “it’s all about the moment,” he disappears into darkness. The vibration of the train matches the collapse of my mind, the high pitched screaming of the doors accelerates my heart. What did I have to lose? Berlin shakes above me and the tunnels break in a flash of bath water.
I open my eyes. This train is divided between those who have paid for a ticket and those who have no ticket. There are no barriers to travel, no guard at the gate. You take responsibility for your crime, especially if you are poor. The divide between bored and vigilant, we wait for the undercover controllers.
The train stops at Checkpoint Charlie, and with a dog I make my way to the emergency dentist. I have no address, I have no health insurance. I look around the waiting room. I wait.
Bacteria digs into tissue.
“The creatures are talking to me,” I tell a junkie in Valencia. “You have to help me, my documents are bleeding.” He offers me a sofa in the squat down the road but instead we smoke and laugh and dance under the intense sun and changing winds at the end of the world.
“I met Francisco Franco in a Condis in Andalusia.” “So what,” the junkie replies, “I am Polish, we all got problems.”
“But I have a receipt!” I scream back, “consumer rights!!!”
“Fine,” the junkie replies. “Let me take a picture, I got an Anti-Fa unit in the south, we will burn his face off.” I relax.
“Thank you,” I reply, “I can always count on the Polish.”
The music is interrupted as the radio begins to crackle between stations and time.
“And now a broadcast from the Disney+ bunkers in Berlin with your host: Meine Führer! Deine Führer! Mickey Mouse!”
“We have rebuilt it. On top of that, we have created the Space Force. If you think about it, we have built the economy twice. Fascism. It means strong borders. It means no riots on the streets. Germany must come first. We don’t put it first, they don’t put it first. The flags. Amazing.
Never let them forget. This was us. We did this.
Can you imagine? We work so hard. And they are coming at levels you haven’t seen yet , by the hundreds of thousands, by the millions they are coming. Influenza, or as I like to call it, the Spain Virus.
And by the way, not one German solider has died in the Basque in over a year. Think of that.
We left them all in the dust. They were all in the dust. That’s what is happening, it is a disaster.
Oh good, say it again Joe. Never let them forget. We know the rule of law is the ultimate safeguard. The people did this to our country. They should be ashamed of themselves. I mean, it’s been studied and the level of distrust is not to be believed.
Never let them forget. We did this.”
The Americans shuffle nervously in their Italian suits as they watch Franco clutching a bottle of British gin and laughing on the floor, singing revolutionary songs… “¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas!”
They were all undercover CIA agents, infiltrating the illuminati in an operation that was so secret, even they had no idea they were spying on themselves. No-one knew.
This is not a CIA plot however, like killing democratically elected leaders or selling guns to Islamists in exchange for arming fascists in central America, or pushing crack on California. No. These things happen all the time. The Italian man from Boston gives Franco the good old fashioned fascist blow to the face and his eyes reorientate in a field of hate.
The CIA men all purr at once, but become immediately suspicious and all report their findings to their superiors, causing a self destructive cycle of paranoia from a fearful butterfly flap that ends with another dead president and more dead animals floating in space.
“I don’t know if I will survive,” I tell Doctor Pommes.
The trees sway softly in the wind, the air fresh, A nearby coffee pot on the fire starts to boil with the smell of woodsmoke and bean, as the people of the trees awake in the ZAD. “The seizures feel like death through electrocution… 13 year is enough. With the situation in mind,” I tell Doctor Pommes, “It is important that you are aware that I exist.”
“It is my intention to remind you of your existence,” Doctor Pommes reassures me.
We once lived in a clay house in the forest. The wide expanse of land around us, it’s inhabitants from local farmers to international activists living in the wildlife and old forests of France, proposed to be bulldozed for an international airport.
“When the fish is caught,” Doctor Pommes says, “we pay no more attention to the trap.” He wags his tail. Doctor Pommes was a dog without an owner, a wolf with no territory.
Suddenly the wiling of noise fills the sky and trees are thrown around by a police helicopter as nature is disrupted by surveillance and I am pulled through the fifth ring of hell and into a dentist chair. “Can you feel this?” the dentist asks, sliding a metal pin into bloody dental pulp.
I scream and grab both the armrests. “I am sorry,” says the dentist, “it seems the anaesthetic has not worked and we have to operate now, I cannot let you leave.”
I look at Doctor Pommes and he wags his tail. “Let there be a silent understanding and no more.”
“Do it,” I smile.
Through the dirty tunnels of my mind, an U-Bahn train illuminates brain cells with a flash of connection. I open my eyes.
I know where I am, Rudi thinks to himself.
In a chair, a journalist is bound with wires, screaming as the intense noise vibrated off his eardrums, causing a cascade of neurological seizures. “Unbearable noise,” the one with the beard laughs, “that you yourself would turn down.” Rudi grabs the man in the chair and screams; “Why are we still alive Axel?”
“Eradicate troublemakers … three bullets for Rudi Dutschke … die you Communist pig,” the journalist blubbers incomprehensibly as Rudi pushes his chair against the window. Outside of the Axel Springer HQ in Kreuzberg, there is carnage on the streets. A teenage boy is dragged by his boot along the ground. The classic German riot police ‘smash and grab’ arrest.
In the sky, a police helicopter watches from above with the winking red eyes of the cranes of gentrification. Riot police jump from green taxis that line the road, and chase the protesters running after the boy.
The bark of police dogs and screaming, siren and blood; The violence of eviction. “You see those kids?” Rudi screams at Axel as he opens the window. “Is it too much?” the bearded one asks.
“Nooooo,” replied the one with hair. “We have to get better at this, I feel like chaos,” the bearded one pulls out wires at random.
“Arrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!” “Alles gut?” “Arrrrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!” “Alles gut?” the dentist repeats, as I scream into oblivion. New tools were pulled from the table and the assistant opens the window.
Rudi steps off the edge. Instead of hitting the ground, a sudden rush of cold air comes from the streets below and pushes him up above Berlin. He can see the smoke of fires heating a million homes and he can see those trapped in the cold. He sees the huddled mass of homeless and he sees through the windows of empty buildings, into the blank lives of no-one.
Round the corner from the Syndikat, evicted by British landlords, Rudi can see the body of a 30-year-old man, in the doorway of a home. His name was Markus and now he is dead. Leave no-one behind? There is blood on our hands and flowers still remain on that doorway.
A testament to both our compassion and our failing, as humans. A heart monitor flatlines in the corner.
“Is that the end? The fascist mouse squeaks as the Acid Polizei pack up their music equipment.
“Where’s the fucking princess? I need someone to sell!”
I wake up covered in sweat. Every night it comes to me as confusion, it overwhelms me in waves. I don’t know why, it doesn’t matter anyway. I awake and the sky begins to brighten with the rising sun, the heat of the day is yet to come.
My fingers tickle the keys of the typewriter.
“Forty years later, this urges me to consider the current status of women. Everyone knows the terrible repression to which the Spanish people were subjected to during Franco’s dictatorship, when human beings were worthless. It was impossible to speak and protest. How did women react to this injustice when ancestral laws regarded them as inferior to men? The improvement that we had obtained in 1936 with our struggle has been completely swept away.
I’m talking about the law regarding abortion, divorce, woman’s independence. Today in 1977, I am ashamed of this but women still depend on laws enacted by Franco’s regime.”
Pepita stops typing as the sounds of footsteps could be heard outside her door, the smack of leather boots and a terrifying knock. She strikes a match and smoke drifts out the window, she watches it rise and fall.
“We are a dictatorship on the proletariat,” a voice shouts from the other side of the door. Her lips tremble and she whispers the unspeakable. The match extinguishes as if to answer her;
¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas! She screams back louder.
“Was bleibt, sind schöne erlinnerungen, die uns nieman nehmen kann. Du fehlst uns. Wir nehmen abschied von unserem leiben kollegen und freund Markus Triebe. Wir sind sehr traurig dass du uns so plötzlich verlassen hast. unser tiefes mitgefühl gilt deiner famile.
What remains are beautiful memories that nobody can take away from us. We miss you. We say goodbye to our dear colleague and friend Markus Triebe. We are very sad that you left us so suddenly. Our deepest sympathy goes to your family.”
Neukölln neighbours and compañeros
– Joe Reynolds