Squatting in Defense of Queer Autonomy

Getting involved in a self-organized space means evolving in a place that changes, transforms, and varies; it allows us to make mistakes, to challenge what we think is immutable, to try something new.

Squatting in Defense of Queer Autonomy

AntiNote: With permission from our comrades in Montreuil, we present two recent blog posts from La Baudrière, a queer-feminist squat that was valiantly defended and ultimately evicted this past week. While we mourn the loss of this stronghold of joyous queer life and resistance, we celebrate all of the possibilities that La Baudrière has opened up for young queer anarchists and the solidarity networks they have built across struggles more broadly. We present their call to defend the squat, as well as their update on the eviction, as a means to uplift and applaud their fight for queer autonomy. Their words stoke a fire in our hearts that inspire us to imagine a more liberated future, where free time, good snacks, and feeling safe enough to make mistakes are just a part of life, for all of us.

La Baudrière Evicted
by inhabitants of La Baudrière
23 August 2023 (original post)

On 22 August at 6am in Montreuil, the anarcha-feminist-queer* squat La Baudrière was evicted. Since November 2021, La Baudrière has been a place for living, political organizing, and community care, where many people have passed through and many struggles have taken place. Inhabitants and comrades of La Baudrière defended the squat with confetti and barricades, holding out as long as possible to keep this haven of queer feminist autonomy alive. The people on site held out for five hours against the assaults of the police, primarily defending the squat from the rooftop. The resources deployed by the state were mind-boggling – over a hundred police officers on site, including the Brav-M, the BAC, the BRI (acronyms of different police brigades), a rope access squad, a private security group, a fire truck with a gondola, ENEDIS technicians (an electricity company), three drones… The neighborhood was completely sealed off for half a day.

After more than five hours of siege and unsuccessful attempts to force their way in from the street, the barricades held strong. The police finally evacuated the inhabitants, who were dancing and singing on the roof, with a cherry-picker. Earlier in the morning, a group of fifteen people who had come to support them were chased off and arrested. Fourteen of those supporters were taken into custody. In total, at least forty-four people are currently in police custody, including three neighbors from Midis du MIE (an association that fights to feed migrants) – they are being held in the police offices of Montreuil, Rosny, Le Raincy, Saint-Denis and Bobigny.** Strength to them all!

All this so that La Baudrière, and everything it contains, can become yet another luxury building with shops, offices, and large apartments. The owner of this building is the Louis-Étienne association – notably, the president of this association is cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is known for covering up cases of child sexual abuse. In a world where the dynamics of gentrification are accelerating in Montreuil and throughout the Ile-de-France, the eviction of La Baudrière has taken place against a backdrop of increased repression of activists and workers in precarious economic standing – the Kasbarian law, unemployment insurance and pension reforms, arrests of activists throughout France in June, etc. – and more particularly in a context of widespread queerphobia. In the spring, Montreuil’s city council, along with racist and queerphobic neighbors of La Baudrière, as well as Montreuil police, had already met to “reassure” each other and prepare for the eviction of La Baudrière.

La Baudrière may have lost all of its residents, but it hasn’t lost its soul! The links and networks we created over the years continue to exist. Let’s keep them going through all of our struggles, tonight at 6pm at the Place de la République in Montreuil, and from Thursday on for the Digitales at La Parole Errante!

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Why We Must Defend La Baudrière
by inhabitants of La Baudrière
17 August 2023 (original post)

La Baudrière is an anarcha-feminist-queer* squat that opened in November 2021 in Montreuil, a city located in Paris’ suburbs. A lot of people meet here – they come for a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks. They come here to live, to learn, to party, to organize. La Baudrière is full of their memories.

Now, eviction is looming, and for those of us who use this place in so many different ways, it is time to defend this space. We are calling any non-cis-het men to collectively defend La Baudrière, from the 21st of August onward.

Here are some of the reasons why we resist. Down with the landlords and the evictors, down with the gentrifiers!

Defend La Baudrière to stop yet another gentrifying real estate project, and to slow down property speculation. Squatting is a way of fighting against private property, which induces financial insecurity, poor housing, social isolation, and environmental devastation. Rents are booming in cities, neighborhoods are always more adapted for the rich, and the poor are pushed further and further away from city centers. The real estate project that is planned for the aftermath of the eviction of La Baudrière is a perfect example of the gentrification process that goes on in Montreuil: real estate agents plan on building a luxury private residence, and extremely expensive shops, so the newcomers feel at home as soon as they arrive.

Defend La Baudrière to keep on having free, non-commercial spaces within the city. Squatting means not having to pay rent. It allows people who don’t have a lot money, or no money at all, to live in a decent, salubrious, and large space, without having to submit to the insecurity of relying on real estate agencies and landlords – who are often classist, racist, and queerphobic – in the hopes of maybe having access to tiny studios and flats.

Not having to pay to survive means not having to work to survive. It leaves time and energy to dumpster dive/recuperate potentially wasted food, to cook, to furnish a house, to decorate, to get involved in projects, to leave, to do the things we really want to do, without the constraints of time or productivity. Not having to pay to survive also means having more money to financially support our families, our friends and comrades, collectives that need it, to create stronger webs of material solidarity within our community and beyond, to buy things that we need or that we want, or to have an afternoon snack every day.

Having access to collective spaces where we don’t pay rent or utilities, and having time to recuperate food and to build what we need ourselves, rather than having to buy these things, allows us to create non-commercial spaces: every party, canteen, and event is hosted on a free-will donation basis. We also have a free shop where anyone can get clothes for free. This also means that the money that is made during our parties and events can be donated in full to the collectives that organize them. The donation-based and free canteens have given us the opportunity to meet and share incredible moments of direct material solidarity, in which we’ve cut onions all together, chatted, listened to music, and had a lot of fun.

Defend La Baudrière to preserve a space for political organization. Organizing is hard when there is no place to meet up, cross paths with other collectives, organize events, and to meet up in order to go to demonstrations together. Political organizing squats are places that give collectives a practical space in which they can grow, prepare projects, or plan squat openings, so new spaces can emerge. In La Baudrière there are dormitories that can welcome people from far away, and there are canteens with everything needed to cook for large groups and to organize political meet-ups. There are also great spaces to have fundraising support parties that can make thousands of euros to financially support collectives in need of money. We want La Baudrière to last even longer, because it would mean that we could keep a place that is materially practical and helpful for organizing. It would enable us to create continuity in our fights and struggles, to maintain and sustain solidarity networks, to develop solid and long-lasting bonds, but also to do better, because obviously, what we’ve been doing is far from perfect.

Defend La Baudrière because it’s a self-organized space for meeting up, learning, and experimenting. It’s a space that many people – most of whom are queer – pass through, and it allows them to meet each other, to create new bonds, to share know-hows that are sometimes seen as less valuable (cooking, hair-dressing, nail art, etc.), or on the contrary that are often kept away from us (electricity, DIY construction, repair, first aid, hormonal transition and safe use, etc.) – all of this while feeling more legitimate, capable, and without being cis-het-mansplained. At La Baudrière, there has been all that and more: gardening, a lot of construction, silk-screen printing, workshops, and discussions around various themes. It’s also a space for experimenting and building spaces that really look like us: we can try things out, and it’s okay if it doesn’t work in the end; we can break walls; we can paint a wall just because we enjoy it, without having to pay the landlord back. Getting involved in a self-organized space means evolving in a space that changes, transforms, and varies; it allows us to make mistakes, to challenge what we think is immutable, to try something new.

Defend La Baudrière because it’s a queer space. We’ve been repeating this over and over in this text: having queer spaces is so very important to us, because we can meet amongst ourselves, share our life experiences, party in a very stylish and flamboyant way, without feeling anxious, and instead feeling stronger collectively, building a form of queer autonomy together. From this emerged a huge project on queer memories, with archive exhibits everywhere in the building, and several events centered around this theme.

Following what our good friends have taught us, we’ve always chosen to have our environment be “without cis-het men” and not “without cis men,” but the majority of the public events were mixed, even if, in fact, they were mostly crowded with queer people. Having these moments with a majority of queer people was precious, and allowed us to make unexpected alliances – providing space for organizing around the struggles in the neighborhood, with many different people involved, in a space that was clear about its anarcha-feminist-queer identity.

Defend La Baudrière because it’s a space for care and community support. A queer space is a place where care and support are key. It is of utmost importance to have spaces for community support that are horizontal, that offer the possibility of giving and receiving support for administrative or medical procedures and paperwork, without having to face medical or social services. One example is the time devoted to gender transitions, especially around the “Instant T” by the FLIRT (the Radical and Intersectional Transfemme Liberation Front, a transfemme community support collective), or “l’apéro transmasc” (a transmasc community support collective), but also in more informal ways, where knowledge, hormones and ideas are shared. There has also been some emergency accommodation to help people out with finding temporary housing. All of this has created ways to try to emancipate each other from the rigid, violent, and infantilizing institutional aid structures, as much as we can, however we can. We’ve tried to build bonds in different ways, to share our knowledge and skills, to create community, and to find solutions, big or small, when we don’t have family, money, housing, or when we’re struggling to find any kind of support.

Defend La Baudrière because it’s a living space. Around fifteen people currently live in La Baudrière. It’s a house where we can live, sleep, and eat almost or completely for free, where we can spend time in a big space with a garden, stock our stuff, have afternoon snacks all together, vegan barbecues, watch films in a cinema room, be sad without being alone, have festive and collective experiences, go to school without having to work for a wage at the same time, chat, and chill. It’s a collective space where many people can and have lived.

There is always someone to talk to or to do things with, and that’s a huge difference compared to the studios where we would have to live on our own, making it more difficult to meet people or live with the people we want to live with.

La Baudrière is a space for human and non-human life. Two cats, mice, two huge chestnut trees, birds that nest there, woodlice, beetles, ants and snails, plants, flowers and vegetables in the yard and on the garden-roof – all of this is doomed to disappear under a thick layer of concrete. The end of La Baudrière means the end of a complex ecosystem where very diverse forms of living share the space in many different forms.

Defend La Baudrière because it’s a really rad building. The building is big, practical, next to the Metro, and well-located in Montreuil. A lot of people put a lot of energy into making it pleasant and beautiful, decorating it and fitting it out so that we could feel at ease here. It’s enraging to lose a building that is still usable and livable. The rooms are filled with memories and it’s heartbreaking to imagine them buried under concrete too.

Defend La Baudrière so we can continue to squat. This year, a new law was voted in in France: the Kasbarian law. It is going to make things more complicated for the occupations to follow, and it’s also going to make it far easier to evict poor tenants. So it means a lot to cherish the spaces that are already open, as long as possible. Defending La Baudrière shows that we want to resist and that we don’t want our rights to be even more limited – we want more rights, but above all, we grant ourselves the right to do what we want.

La Baudrière was opened almost entirely by very young queer people, because they needed spaces to live and to organize, but also in response to an activist environment that was often queerphobic and not very accessible. Along the way, La Baudrière was shown precious marks of solidarity – material, affective, festive solidarity – from a lot of different collectives and a lot of different individuals, from the inter-squat networks of Ile-de-France (the Parisian region), and from self-organized and/or squatted places in Montreuil and in Ile-de-France. It is also thanks to all of this solidarity that La Baudrière was able to be opened and to live this long. Thank you <3

We loooooove the Baudrière, and this is why we choose to defend it. Come defend La Baudrière, its barricades, its treehouses, and its beetles!

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* In French, we use “TPG” (Trans Pédé Gouine) instead of “queer” to label La Baudrière, which translates to Trans, Faggots, and Dykes. Labeling the squat “anarcha-feminist” AND “TPG” includes cis-het women as well.

** We have since been informed that all forty-four of the squat defenders have been released from custody, all without serious injury.

Republished with permission from a member of La Baudrière. Edited lightly for clarity and readability by Antidote.

contact: la-baudriere@riseup.net
blog: labaudriere.noblogs.org

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