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Czech activists file report of suspected crime after officials fail to produce permit used as pretext for denying them access to facility

11.3.2016 23:29
As many as 2 000 people participated in a solidarity march in support of the Autonomous Social Center Klinika in Prague on 27 February 2016. (PHOTO:  Facebook page of the Autonomous Social Center Klinika - Autonomní sociální centrum Klinika)
As many as 2 000 people participated in a solidarity march in support of the Autonomous Social Center Klinika in Prague on 27 February 2016. (PHOTO: Facebook page of the Autonomous Social Center Klinika - Autonomní sociální centrum Klinika)

Activists running the Autonomous Social Center Klinika in the Žižkov quarter of Prague 3 say they have filed a report of a suspected crime with the police over the fact that the Prague 3 Building Works Authority claimed to them and to the owner of the facility  where their center has been operating that because the building had been issued a permit for a different use, the continued operation of the center there was illegal. Now it turns out there is no record of such a use permit.

Yesterday the Prague cell of the Czech Social Democratic Party offered Klinika the option of moving into the building of a former nursery school in Prague 4. Activists say they do not want to relocate there because the Prague 4 facility is in very poor condition and the building in Prague 3 where their center is now running is apparently not needed by any other unit of the state, which owns it.

The activists want to continue to negotiate with the owner of the facility, the Office for Government Representation in Property Affairs (Úřad pro zastupování státu ve věcech majetkových - ÚZSVM), and with the Prague 3 municipal department about remaining there. Ever since last Wednesday, when their contract for borrowing the building expired, the activists have been occupying the facility illegally.

Police have not yet contacted them about overstaying their contract. Tereza Virtová, the individual who has borrowed the building, contacted the ÚZSVM again today with a request to negotiate.

"No use permit decision exists for that building. To us, that means the ÚZSVM's main reason not to extend our contract to borrow it no longer exists," Jakub Ort of the Klinika collective said.

The authorities have argued that the building was permitted for use as a lung sanatorium and that putting it to any other use is therefore illegal. The Prague 3 Building Works Authority, however, has been unable to produce a record of any such decision.

Activists say they have already filed a report of a suspected crime over the matter. Czech Green Party chair Matěj Stropnický (SZ) posted to his Facebook profile that "there is only a permit for the gas hookup there. The Building Works Authority, therefore, has called for bringing the use of the property into line with a non-existent assessment for no lawful reason, and the Office of the Government Representation in Property Affairs lied when it claimed it could not renew the lease contract due to a mismatch between the facility's use permit and its actual use, and the politicians entrusted with overseeing the authorities, including Mayor Hujová of Prague 3, have lied as well."

ČSSD offers activists a former nursery school

Deputy Mayor of Prague Petr Dolínek and former city councilor Irena Ropková offered on Thursday to loan Klinika the building of a former nursery school on Znojemská Street in the Prague 4 quarter of Michle, but the activists will not be taking advantage of that offer. "It does not make sense to us to move into a building that is in rather poor condition when the one where we are already is not needed by any other organizational unit of the state and the center is already functioning there with water and electricity," Virtová said.

"We can't even imagine running the center somewhere among all of the prefabricated apartment buildings in Prague 4," she added. For his part, Stropnický posted the following to Facebook about the Prague 4 offer:  "That building is riddled with exposed, highly carcinogenic asbestos insulation. ... Do I understand correctly that the Socialists want to achieve the Žižkov clinic being restored to the use for which it has been put for 50 years - as a lung clinic - through actions that would result in the activists seeking treatment at that clinic after spending time at the nursery school in Michle?"

Other political parties are also criticizing the ČSSD offer. "It is not, in my opinion, correct, fair or beneficial to offer just one chosen group of young people a different building and to remove them from the place they are occupying without authorization in that way. That would be set the precedent for a system in which whoever is the most audacious will be the one to get something out of the city, the state, or a municipal department," Patrik Nacher (ANO), chair of the City Commission on Education and Social Affairs, told the Czech News Agency.

According to the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), it is impossible for Klinika to remain in Prague 3 and also impossible for it to move to Prague 4. "Unused spaces in Prague should be primarily used for the activities of organizations fulfilling the general public interest, not those supporting radical political groups," said Vice-Mayor of Prague 3 Alexandr Bellu (ODS).

The Green Party claims that Irena Ropková (ČSSD) is just doing her best to get rid of this "problem" in Prague 3 and move it elsewhere by offering a different building to Klinika. She was elected in the Prague 3 Municipal Department.

Klinika as a center for nonprofit organizations?

Dolínek and Ropková also said Prague City Hall might attempt to acquire the building at issue on Jeseniova Street in Prague 3 for itself. It could then allow a center with spaces for nonprofit organizations to be headquartered there.

"We are convinced that Prague City Hall must attempt to acquire ownership of the building of the former clinic. Then we can discuss together with the current occupants of Klinika whether we will be capable of finding a use for the building that will continue to be a benefit to the men and women of Prague," said the chair of Prague's Green Party cell, Ondřej Mirovský.

Klinika has collected 1 000 signatures in favor of Prague City Council reviewing the problem. It has also applied for registration as an association so that in future negotiations its representatives will be acting on behalf of a legal entity with its own subjectivity.

The Czech Government's dislocation commission will meet next Tuesday to assess whether the state still needs the building. After it issues a decision on that issue, the ÚZSVM may then prepare to sell the building eventually.

Squatters occupied the building at Jeseniova 60 in Žižkov at the end of November 2014, and after several months managed to borrow the building with the Government's permission. That contract expired a week ago.

Last week the ÚZSVM filed a motion asking police to investigate whether the continued occupation of the building is legal. Hundreds of people have demonstrated in support of Autonomous Social Center Klinika in the past.

The building has been used by Klinika to house a community laundry room, a library, and a cafe, and lectures and concerts have been held there. All of its programs are offered free of charge or in exchange for a voluntary contribution of funds.

Activists have also repaired the building, primarily with their own labor. They have refused subsidies from the municipality and from big donors.

The building was attacked in February by masked people throwing rocks and pyrotechnics, and the Prague 3 Municipal Department wrote a letter to the Czech Government demanding that it provide security and order. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and other politicians have called for a thorough investigation of the attack. 


ČTK, jal, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Aktivismus, Klinika, Praha, Strana zelených, Vláda, demokracie, dobrovolnictví, Občanská společnost, Občanské iniciativy, občanské sdružení, radnice



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