Rigaer Strasse 94, one of Friedrichshain’s last alternative housing projects, has made headlines since the beginning of the year. Police raids, demonstrations, and car burnings have polarized the city. After judge Nicola Herbst ruled a June 22nd raid unlawful, peace has been restored to the street.
“At the moment people in the house, and in the street are happy that the police is not there constantly," says Lukas Theune, the lawyer for the residents at Rigaer Str. 94. The history of the house as a site of squatting and forced evictions goes back to the early 90s. Right now, he says, life continues, but the future of the former squat and the building’s owners remain mysterious.
“They have a business buying houses and then selling them again, and making profit. I think if they get an offer which is high enough that they would make some profit with the house, sure they would sell it.”
Theune speculates that it’s possible the Berlin-based owners would rather part with the building than reveal their identity, which is concealed by a British mailbox company that fronts the ownership. Before the raids began, a plan was floated to evict Rigaer94’s residents to create refugee flats, a plan which has long since evaporated.
“It wasn’t condemned but it was like clear from the first moment that this has to be like a bad joke. And the thing is, in the whole district of Friedrichshain there are like no refugees in flats, because the state isn’t able to pay the rents, which are asked by the owners,” says Christopher Lauer, former Pirate Party chairman - now an independent in the State Parliament, or Abgeordnetenhaus, of Berlin.
“One part of the government is trying maybe to get a deal, that’s basically one possibility, but I don’t know for certain.”
The state of Berlin could purchase the house from its current owners and allow the residents to remain. Of course, not everyone in the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin is in favor of this plan.
“It’s hard to say, but you couldn’t just make a deal saying okay, we’ll give you XYZ house if you don’t commit crimes or burn cars. I think the debate about it is absurd,” says Berlin Social Democrat Tom Schreiber, who has spoken out numerous times against the extreme Left, as well as Rocker clubs, the Hell’s Angels, and Arab gangs.
“What should not be done is to bring up this topic in an election year and to say, ‘We’re going to send in lots of police’ and to act against the so-called left autonomous scene. It costs a lot of money and police hours, and in the end it was possibly unlawful.”
At the center of criticism is Frank Henkel, Berlin’s Interior Senator. The question remains whether or not he had control over the police at the time of the raid.
As for Rigaer Str. 94, it’s unlikely the building’s future will be resolved before the Berlin State Elections on September 18th.