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Seniors protest closing of Berlin club

July 2, 2012 at 3:38 PM

BERLIN, July 2 (UPI) -- About 50 senior citizens have occupied a Berlin villa that serves as their social club to protest plans to close the building.

The squatters, ages 65-89, have been camping since Friday at the Pankow district building, which had belonged to a man who served as East Germany's minister of state security from 1957 to 1989, The Local.de reported.

Jens-Holger Kirchner, a local district councilor, said district authorities have to shut down the state-owned building because it lacks access for the disabled and it would cost nearly $1.9 million to renovate it.

"We don't have that money," Kirchner said.

Neighbors have been bringing the protesters food.

The seniors have been told clubs and courses now offered at the building will be moved to other public buildings, including kindergartens.

"For us, it's all about the community," said Peter Klotsche, 71, one of the protesters, who has been sleeping on a camp bed in the building.

The Local.de said none of the protesters had ever occupied a building and they have called a lawyer to talk about their options.

The villa had belonged to Erich Mielke, minister of state security in Communist East Germany, which made him head of the Stasi secret police.

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