Unauthorised protest in Zurich sees rocks thrown and windows smashed

Unauthorised protest in Zurich sees rocks thrown and windows smashed

On February 18, around a thousand people marched through the streets of Zurich in protest against the forced eviction of activists from the Koch Areal and rising rental costs in the city. People attending the unauthorised demonstration have been condemned for damaging cars, trams and shop windows, while the police were accused of being absent. Zurich authorities have now demanded a full investigation into what happened.

Rioters in Zurich protesting against gentrification and housing costs

On Saturday night, approximately 1.000 people marched through District 4 (Kreis 4) towards Zurich Main Station. The demonstration was completely unauthorised, meaning no Swiss police were present when the march began, according to 20 Minuten.

As the group marched through the city centre, hooded figures among the crowd began demolishing cars, damaging tram stops and vandalising shop windows. The newspaper said that the group had “left a path of destruction” in their wake. Police soon created a cordon around Zurich Main Station, although few confronted the crowd itself.

Eviction of Koch Areal leads to violence on Zurich streets

The protesters were marching in support of the activists and squatters who had occupied the buildings and grounds of the Koch Areal - a social and cultural centre in the city. After it was confirmed that the site would be renovated and its tenants evicted, a number of protests began across the city, including the occupation of the Hardturm - a site earmarked for a housing development and brand new stadium for Football Club Zurich and Grasshopper Club Zurich.

In a prelude to the events on Saturday, protesters around the Koch Areal threw rocks and pyrotechnics at the emergency services as they moved to secure the site on February 16. Protesters angry at the eviction have now rallied around the slogan Everything is Occupied (Alles wird Besetzt) - calling for the occupation of houses throughout the city in reaction to the increasing gentrification of Zurich, along with the sky-high costs of renting a house or apartment.

Politicians demand immediate crackdown on unauthorised protests

Speaking to 20 Minuten, FDP. The Liberals councillor Stefan Brupbacher said that "the fact that chaotic people can roam the city and let their destructiveness run free with impunity is clearly going too far", arguing that the idea that rioters were able to roam free in the streets without a police response has harmed Zurich’s reputation.

He, and a number of other public figures, have called for a crackdown on illegal protests, with others also calling for the Head of the Zurich Security Department, Karin Rykart, to resign.

Officials argue police response in Zurich was adequate 

In response, Green Liberal Party of Zurich (GLP) co-president Sven Sobernheim told 20 Minuten that “the police did not underestimate the situation”, arguing that they did not directly engage the protestors for “tactical reasons.” Green Party co-president Monika Bätschmann noted, "Too strong a police presence would probably have only poured oil on the fire and resulted in a corresponding counter-reaction… It could have ended badly and at most led to street battles."

However, she also condemned the damage: “It is a great pity that demos for quite legitimate concerns such as the housing shortage repeatedly lead to property damage. It robs the matter of credibility,” she told the newspaper.

Thumb image credit: Michael Derrer Fuchs /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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