BASEL – Occupiers at Art Basel had a rough encounter with the local police force on Friday night. After having taken over Tadashi Kawamata’s Art Favela, a village of concession shacks installed in front of the fair’s main entrance, a group of about 100 partying protesters were evicted by armored Basel police (see video below). According to a spokesperson, the group, which included a donkey, wanted to underline the decadence of including a slum setting as part of one the world’s biggest art fairs.
According to the local newspaper Basellandschaftliche Zeitung, the raid escalated to something of a street fight with protesters tossing debris at the police officers who in turn applied excessive amounts of tear gas in order to gain control over the situation. By Saturday morning the scene was cleared and most Art Basel visitors would only have noticed scattered remnants from the tumultuous scenes the night before.
In the local press, however, questions remained about who to hold responsible for the incident’s relatively violent end. In an interview with the Basler Zeitung newspaper, Baschi Dürr, director of the Basel police, pointed out that the police had been called by the art fairs organizers after the protestors — who had also added impromptu huts of their own to Kawamata’s favela — had refused to leave the premises or turn down the music blasting out of their large PA system. Asked whether the use of tear gas was an appropriate measure, Dürr stated that though he personally felt “a certain sympathy for the artificial favela,” the police officers had to defend themselves, after having been attacked with chairs. Dürr also pointed out that previous attempts to end the situation via negotiations had failed.
See video of the eviction:
— Lisa Contag
(Image: video still.)