Residents of Czech neighborhood announce "Two Weeks of Vigilance" to protest their impending eviction
On Monday 9 July the residents of the Bedřiška neighborhood in Ostrava, Czech Republic announced "Two Weeks of Vigilance" out of concern that they will lose their housing there. The event, subtitled "Colors of Bedřiška" (a reference to the annual music festival Colors of Ostrava), is meant to draw attention to the difficult situation of the locals and present life in the neighborhood, which has not met the definition of an "excluded locality" for some time, to the public.
The program includes concerts, discussions, outdoor movies and workshops for children. In addition to local residents the organization of the event involves the local community center led by the White Rhinoceros (Bílý nosorožec) organization, the collective "Wake Up the Houses" (Probuď domy), Plato City Gallery in collaboration with the Olomouc Animated Film Festival (PAF Olomouc), the Cineport movie theater, the Harakiri Czurakami literary initiative, and other individual activists and supporters.
These organizations and local tenants are responding to the fact that during the second half of June some families living in the neighborhood were informed by the local authority that their rental contracts would not be extended. The residents do not want to move away from their homes and have therefore decided to hold the two-week action along with their supporters.
The beginning of the two weeks of events was planned for 9 July, or the day the first families were meant to be involuntarily moved out of the neighborhood. After the most recent session of the local assembly of the City of Ostrava, where residents of Bedřiška also made interventions, the situation was partially calmed because, at the request of the Mayor of Ostrava, Tomáš Macura, the local municipal department did extend the families' contracts, although only between four and six months.
Fear of losing their housing and the uncertainty with which some residents have been living for months now continue to persist, so organizers are continuing with the event. The program for the public began last Wednesday with afternoon activities for children and the screening of documentary films in the evening.
The program will continue until 21 July and includes art workshops, many concerts, more documentaries and readings. Performers invited include the bands The Neunikneš, LETO, Hledání, Daša fon Flaša, Girl Therapy and Social Party, but local residents will also play music as well.
On Saturday 21 July there will be two panel discussions, "(Un)dignified Labor" and "Housing: Why and How It is Worth Fighting For", that will feature, for example, the activist Miroslav Brož and the journalist Saša Uhlová. After a long period of official silence, public discussions were resumed about the Bedřiška neighborhood around the beginning of this year in connection with its demolition, which the local authority is planning.
Thanks to several years of work by the local community center and the activity of its own residents, and in spite of the persistent opinions based on what the state of the locality was like back in 2010, when an apparently antigypsyist arson attack there made the news, the place has since become a calm, functional place to live. Originally built as a colony of "Finnish" style vacation cottages, Bedřiška has been visited by many activists, journalists and politicians, including former Justice Minister Robert Pelikán, Mayor Macura and Vice Mayor Zbyněk Pražák.
In addition to its many supporters, the neighborhood also has many enemies, led by the Mayor and Vice-Mayor of the local authority (Mariánské Hory a Hulváky), who say they want to "revitalize" the area. No specific plans, however, have yet been submitted to the public by the local leadership.
Some local residents have already moved away from the neighborhood, but most have decided to remain in their homes under the slogan "We Remain and Together We Will Achieve Change". Those residents say they want to continue to beautify the buildings and the neighborhood and are actively contributing to transforming it.
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