A rundown five-storey building that was home to 25 squatters became the flashpoint for violent protests in Berlin last week. Up to 2,500 police were called in to handle the crowds surrounding Liebigstrasse 14 on Feb. 2, as police moved to enforce an eviction notice dating back to November 2009. “Liebig 14,” one of the city’s last remaining squats, stood as a symbol of left-leaning residents’ resentment over gentrification—and the resulting rent increases—in the east Berlin district of Friedrichshain.
Using sledgehammers and axes to break through barricades, police took five hours to remove the nine remaining residents holed up in the building. More than 1,000 protesters gathered in solidarity; some turned to violence, breaking windows, paintballing buildings and scuffling with police. In the end, dozens were arrested and more than 60 officers were injured. Liebig 14 was one of many abandoned buildings in the former Communist East Berlin that were occupied by squatters after the Berlin Wall came down in 1990.