SQUASH NewsRound: January 2013

The NewsRound will be a fortnightly to monthly post, keeping tabs on articles being posted in MainStream Media (MSM) sources, as well as independent channels (eg IMC, SchNEWS) about squatting, the new law (s.144) and possible new legislation (eg commercial). If you spot any articles of interest, please let us know by emailing: info@squashcampaign.org. Disclaimer: All views expressed in this blog are that of the compiler and not necessarily those of SQUASH.

For the Period: 23rd November 2012 – 15th January 2013

Raids on Squats

It seems the Met police are now taking orders from property developers and owners to raid and evict squats. The job was previously done by bailiffs, paid for by the owner, but this seems to be changing with the new legislation, which seeks to pass the expense on to the public purse.

Vauxhall Squat Raids [FitWatch (on IMC UK); 5th January 2013]

vauxhall raid

One of a number of raids on squats in the London area using the Met police’s riot squad to do the dirty deed, while bailiffs and private security stood around and photographed squatters coming out of the building. Not only are the police now at the beck and call of property developers, who want their buildings empty, but developers are using private security firms to start collecting photographs of squatters as part of surveillance operations. Where and how these photos will be used is yet to be ascertained, but no doubt this development does not bode well for our civil liberties.

Camden Garden Centre Resistance [Eviction Resistance blog; 9th January 2013]

camden eviction resistance

An attempted raid on the Camden Garden Centre squat by the Met police was successfully resisted with a good level of support within and outside the site. The squat has provided a great social centre resource for the local community, who were happy to have the squatters there since they stopped the derelict site from becoming a hotspot for anti-social behavior and vandalism. However, the property owner and the police did not share the community’s view and attempted to illegally evict the squat early in the morning; check the pics and video clip on the blog for the spirited resistance they found…..

Arrests and Prosecutions

Leicester: “Teenage trespasser from Loughborough falls foul of new anti-squatting laws” [This is Leicester, 11th January 2013]

Having moved into an empty residential premises after an estate agent left keys in the door, unemployed and homeless Makepeace (18 years old) was arrested when the owner became suspicious and called the police. Living in temporary accommodation since being kicked out of home after ending an apprenticeship prematurely and facing problems securing job seeker’s allowance and housing benefit, which left him in rent arrears and facing eviction, Makepeace moved into the empty house as a short-term solution. Magistrate David Womersley sentenced Makepeace to nine weeks in prison, suspended, for trespass, theft and attempted theft, under the new law (s 144 LASPO). Mr Sayce stated as mitigating circumstances: “This is a young man with no previous convictions, who accepts full responsibility for his behavior […] He has no drug, drink or mental health issues. Rather, the circumstances of the offenses on both occasions appear to be a lack of, or being near to losing, accommodation.” With new rafts of Con-Dem policy against young people, including cutting housing benefit and forced-labour (WorkFare) we can expect to see a lot more of these cases in the coming year.

Brighton: “Man arrested over attack on Tory MP before squatting debate” [Guardian; 23rd November 2012]

Still perpetuating the same old lies coming out of the Mike Weatherley’s “welcome” to Sussex University (ie stories of rocks thrown, crowd all non-students, this was a debate (actually just Weatherley wittering on about squatters)), the Guardian reports on the arrest of a young man (24 years old) charged with “affray” at the event, no doubt prompted by Weatherley seeking revenge on the non-violent protesters. In the true spirit of conservatism, the (marginalised) young should be seen and not heard, and when they step out of line, harshly punished; once again the greedy old men get their way. Solidarity with our arrested comrade.

Other Squatting News

“Spanish Locksmiths throw away the keys to eviction” [Public Radio International; 2nd January 2013]

Spanish locksmiths in Palmero are refusing to shut people out of their homes once they have repossessed by the corrupt banks and the complicit police. This action has been prompted by the rising suicide rates amongst people who are face becoming homeless and destitute. Well done chaps; maybe their British counterparts might think of doing something similar?

Grow Heathrow are in Court The case will be heard on Tuesday, 15th January, 2013 in COURT 74, before LORD JUSTICE WARD, LORD JUSTICE LLOYD and LORD JUSTICE TOULSON. On APPEAL from County Courts: B5/2012/2032 Malik -v- Persons Unknown & ors. Appeal of Defendant from the order of His Honour Judge Walden-Smith, dated 18th July 2012, filed 8th August 2012. Good luck peeps!

“Criminalise squatting in commercial premises, say Tory MPs” [Guardian Society; 30th Nov 2012]

This is the last in a series of newspaper articles about Tory proposals to try to extend criminalisation of squatting to commercial property, interviews the Old Bull squatters, mention of the Cardiff Gremlins and a nifty little quote from our very own Catherine. The new Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, Tracey Crouch, states that squatters may be “web-savvy and educated” (OMG!) and “squatting through ideological reasons” (sic); watch out for this one, because there is no doubt the right-wing lobby is looking for someone who does not act and talk like an old fascist (like Mike) to spearhead their campaign (if it gets off the ground). Thankfully all quiet on the Western front for now……

“Bare-Bones Photo Tour of London Squat Proves Content Is King” [Wired; 8th January 2013] london squat

The art mag Wired have done a piece on photographer Adrian Nettleship’s Occupy and Explore photo exhibition (both in real life and virtual tour) which explores the interior of a London squat. Nettleship makes some great points in his interview, such as the media’s role in demonising squatters, and the article includes some SQUASH stats (a note to all journos: it is the Empty Homes Agency, and not SQUASH, who collect data on empty homes in England and Wales). A great article and virtual photo exhibition…check it out!

Housing News

“How the Elephant Was Sold!” [Southwark Notes; 12th January 2013]

On Tuesday 15th January 2013, Southwark Council’s planning committee will be deciding on the biggest regeneration project in its history, as the Heygate planning application is up on the table for approval or rejection. Three local objectors will have a total of 5 mins between them to say why it should be rejected; a total farce since there are some 200 other objectors (some of whom have been campaigning for 15 years) won’t get a chance to be heard and neither will the 3,000 people who were kicked off the estate. There will be a silent protest inside the chamber, after the objectors have spoken. Some Additional Links: Elephantamenity and Peoples Republic of Southwark

“Renters protest high rents and poor standards at City Hall Meeting” [Haringey Housing Action Group” ; 18th December 2012]

City-Hall-protest

Housing groups across London came together to demand that members of the GLA Housing Committee at a City Hall meeting hear loud and clear the views of private tenants as they form their recommendations for the private rented sector. London private tenants groups Brent Private Tenants’ Rights Group, Digs, Haringey Housing Action Group and Housing for the 99% carried out a lively, vocal protest to highlight the imbalance of rights of landlords over private tenants, extortionate rents and insecure, poor quality private rented housing. Speakers inside the meeting debated about the issue of rent controls, but Ben Reeve Lewis explained the opposition from landlords to any rent control:”If you talk to any landlord about rent controls they won’t even let you finish the sentence. You’ll get instantly shot down”. People highlighted that Boris’ piss-poor attempt at legislating private landlords through the London Rental Standard will only push problems down to the bottom end of the market to people who are less able to defend themselves and the issue of retaliatory evictions, where the landlord evicts and tenant for standing up for their housing rights, is still perfectly legal.