It is Christmas time! Time for Christmas carols, Christmas cookies and beautiful street decorations. However, Christmas time in Zürich this year seems to be a little different: On 13 December about 200 often masked rioters armed with crude weapons including iron bars plundered and vandalised the centre of Switzerland’s biggest city, causing significant damage to numerous properties.
The demonstrators carried a banner with the English inscription “Reclaim the streets” (RTS) (a reference to the anti-capitalist “Occupy” movement). The organizers clarified the reasons for their violent action expressly condemning the newly created housing developments at the Europaallee. These are considered a symbol of Zürich’s urban renewal. “Monotone landscapes à la Google Quarter, Europe Avenue and Zürich West proliferate to service the capital”, could be read on a leaflet. “We want a city that is loud, messy and exciting.” This slogan correspondent with the original objectives of the protest by the ”Reclaim the Streets” movement which organized spontaneous, unapproved but peaceful parties in public spaces to condemn the commercialization and privatization of public spaces. However, this time the RTS movement became a cover for violence. All shop windows in this zone were destroyed and the damage is estimated to be worth about CHF 1 Million. The Zurich police were taken by surprise. “We had no warning in advance” commented spokesman Marco Corte. The protestors even stole equipment from the law enforcement agencies. The police were forced to use rubber bullets, teargas and water hoses to disperse the riot. Seven policemen were hurt and four men, aged between 20 and 36 were arrested – two Swiss, one British and one Liechtensteiner. Peace and order was restored by midnight. “Events such as “Reclaim the Streets” or “Dance Yourself Free” offer violent left-wing extremists a platform to perpetrate acts of violence and provide an excellent opportunity for them to recruit new members” stated Nachrichtendienst des Bundes (NDB) spokeswoman, Isabelle Graber. These events are organized exceptionally by the extremist left-wing as a free ticket to violence for an apolitical youth.