Back in June when we were living in Malmö, Sweden for two weeks, Catherine and I had the pleasure of being shown around Forskningsavdelningen – Swedish for “Research Department” – an urban “hacker space” that our friend Olle is a member of. Located inside a larger facility called Utkanten – “an open space for a broad specter of alternative cultural, social and political activities” – Forskningsavdelningen is a group of people interesting in machines, technologies, and society. And so touring around their space you come across everything from old PCs taken apart to copies of the Whole Earth Catalog.
As related here, this past Saturday Utkanten was raided by the police:
At 20.45 on Saturday the 28th of November the police raided the social centre Utkanten in Malmö, where the hackerspace Forskningsavdelningen is housed. Twenty officers in full riot gear and ski masks broke into the space through the entrance and a backdoor, using crowbars. Shortly thereafter twenty to thirty more showed up, mostly dressed as civilians and some of them IT technicians from Länskriminalen (county police), who are suspected to be interested in the hackerspace. They stayed in the building for about six hours.
Although their nominal reason for the raid was to investigate an alcohol violation – there was a punk concert happening in another part of Utkanten at the time – they quickly expanded the breadth of their raid to include Forskningsavdelningen, and walked away with a good chunk of the group’s kit: PCs, wireless routers, a digital camera and even 5 bottles of rum and a pocket calculator.
Why should you care about this?
Raiding Forskningsavdelningen is tantamount to raiding a public library and carrying off the books on suspicion that they might be used for nefarious purposes. While the space may look rough around the edges and somewhat sketchy and un-public-library-like, at its heart Forskningsavdelningen is about people educating themselves and each other about technology, a mission it shares in common with libraries, schools, universities. And with me.
Raiding Forskningsavdelningen is an affront to our right (and responsibility) in a free society to understand and interpret the world around us.
And that’s something we should all take seriously: right now it’s the rum-swilling Swedish hackers in the anarchist space that get raided; how long before the police come knocking at my door because of my map-mashing, corporate database-hacking, rabble-rousing?
Forskningsavdelningen is looking for donations to help them replace the stolen equipment; I’ve just donated and I encourage you to.