Squatting is on the rise again in these times of austerity (see for example the recent occupations of flats in Southern Spain, mostly carried out by housewives and families). An Italian project that’s caught my attention since its beginning is in Pisa, where last year’s Occupy protests evolved into the reappropriation and transformation of abandoned buildings for the benefit of the local community.
The Occupy Pisa project started in November 2011 with the occupation of some old buildings owned by a bank in Pisa, with the aim of providing alternative and self-managed social spaces for the local community. After only a few months of successful initiatives, such as a low-cost canteen, courses and advice drop-ins, the building was evicted in February. The eviction didn’t stop them though, as they went on to set up a permanent camp in the nearby Piazza Dante, which was used as a base to organise pickets and demonstrations, and to keep engaging with the local residents. Thanks to these tactics the project has grown from being an activist-based movement to being a mixed group of people from all sorts of backgrounds, including students, precarious workers, unemployed people and local residents of all ages.
After the global day of action against austerity on May 15th – which in Italy was focused on Equitalia, the Italian state-owned tax department – the project decided to move on and occupy an abandoned sports centre, disused for the last 6 years despite the local residents’ requests to re-open it. The works at the “Nuova Periferia Polivalente” started straight away and culminated with a public assembly on June 3rd to discuss ideas and proposals for the project, which obviously include renovating the sports facilities, but also creating social spaces for adults and children, an employment-focused area to organise the local workers and an “Anti-Equitalia Advice Centre” for people in debt. The low-cost social canteen – one of key elements of the project since its origins – will come back with a newly built outdoor wooden oven.