SQUASH NewsRound: Mid-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 that of SQUASH.

For the Period: 1st January – 5th February 2013

The Battle Begins…

Early Day Motion Alert

parliament

So the old slime Mike Weatherley (MP Brighton and Hove (Actually)) has started proceedings to criminalise squatting in commercial premises. Word has it that he had a private meeting with Die Fuhrer (David Cameron) just before initiating an Early Day Motion (EDM) to begin proceedings for another bout of stealth legislation that seeks to criminalise the homeless; while the contents of the meeting are secret, we can safely surmise that Cameron gave Weatherley the nod of approval from the top. The EDM, a fast-track method for MPs to bring issues before Parliament, currently has 16 signatures, with the usual Tory-scum suspects, but also a Labour and a Lib-Dem MP, proving yet again that there’s not much difference between the main political parties when it comes to screwing the poor. To keep track of how EDM 192 is progressing and who is backing it [click here] Please start contacting your MP to make them aware of this EDM and to say that you do not approve of this new measure by the government; if your MP is one of the signatories, please contact them to find out why they have signed this without first consulting their constituents.

Repeal Section 144 LASPO Petition

SQUASH has started its own petition to Repeal Section 144 of LASPO (the new law which criminalises squatting in empty and derelict residential property); the petition currently has 1,482 signatures but we need loads more. If you’ve ever been to a great squat party, gig or gallery, attended a Free School or taken anything from a Free Shop, have friends who squat or met interesting and inspiring people who squat, ever squatted yourself when you’ve had nowhere else to stay or your parents squatted in the 1970s/80s as a means to house themselves, then please, sign the petition if you’re not already actively involved. Spread the word and show your support. The petition can be found here

Friern Barnet Library Saved Thanks to Squatting

barnet

Well done to the local residents, squatters and activists who have been able to use their adverse possession of Friern Barnet Library to force the corrupt Barnet Council to come to the negotiating table; without their brave actions and the legal protections to squatting commercial premises, the Library would have been just another victim of privatisation and asset stripping. Good luck and well done.

On Tuesday 5th February, at midday, exactly five months since the occupation began, the community will take possession of the Friern Barnet Library. The local community – represented by the trustees of the library – are on the verge of agreeing a two-year lease with Barnet Council (LBB) to run the library with some funding from the council. At the ceremony, squatters and supporters of the Occupy Movemnet, who have been keeping the building open and enabling the local community to run a book lending service and community centre in the building, will hand it over to the trustees of the newly formed Friern Barnet Community Library (FBCL). They have now received a licence from LBB to be in the library for two weeks with the promise of renewal of the licence if necessary to negotiate a lease and other matters. “This is a triumph for the local community,” said, one of the trusteesof the new community library. “Our library was closed in April. And we were told the building would be ‘marketed’. Now we have our library back, with council financial support. We achieved this through constant campaigning, lobbying, and building a broad alliance including squatters, activists, supporters of the Occupy movement, local residents and library campaign groups.” One local resident Maureen Ivens Chairwoman of the Save Friern Barnet Library group, said of all the different groups that had come together “We are here as one”. The Friern Barnet Community Library (Ltd) trustees will be handed over the keys by the council for a temporary licence allowing then to keep the Friern Barnet library building open until a full two year lease is signed by both parties. Some Articles:Future looks brighter for Friern Barnet Library thanks to Squatters [Demotix, 10 January 2013] and Library campaigners save Friern Barnet branch for community [Guardian; 5 February 2013]

Curtailing Freedom of Information by Criminalising Squatting

[Information Tribunal, 22 January 2013]

FOI

A relevant decision notice from the Information Tribunal, which looks at Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests has made ruling that councils no longer need to provide public interest information on empty properties in their boroughs due to the perceived likelihood of “criminal activity” in relation to squatting. A source close to SQUASH provided the following analysis: “This is very bad news as: the decision they are overturning is one where the judge specifically based his reasoning on the impact of the property shortage in London. The original decision, which Dominic Grieve called a “squatters roadmap”, said that the details of all empty properties owned by commercial landlords (rather than private individuals) so councils etc, must be published as there is an overriding public interest in forcing these landlords to make their properties available to be occupied (due to housing shortage.) It was this jurisprudence which formed the basis of the decision to amend the law to allow squatting in commercial properties ONLY. Though at the moment the judiciary seem to be holding back and not going the whole hog, as the basis for the decision making now seems to be the likelihood of crime in that SPECIFIC area or local authority… it does seem to undermine the original public interest considerations, and give primacy to the likelihood of criminal activity rather than the impact of the housing shortage.. basically that doesn’t look good for the future legality in regards to squatting commercial properties.. Not ideal basically.”

Another Arrest

Polish immigrant jailed for squatting after refusing to leave house when told to by police; [Daily Hate; 5th February 2013] Michael Minorczyk (27) has been jailed for 15 weeks for squatting in a residential premises in Blackburn. The report from the Daily Hate, guardian of public morality and British fascism since 1931, focuses on the man’s alcoholic background, his Polishness, being a dirty foreigner, his rough sleeping habits, claiming that he is one of the first men in England to be prosecuted under s144 LASPO; if their piss-poor journalists did a little more research they would find that there have been at least 20 arrests and 6 convictions under the new law to date (however, this is likely to be a serious underestimate too). The official police story, as well as the claim that the property in question was under renovation, flag up a possible glossing of facts, which of course are not investigated further (don’t be silly you lefty pinko). The new law, it claims, protects some of the most vulnerable in society, namely: “those who own residential buildings that they don’t live in, such as landlords, local authorities or second home owners.” [Warning: reading the comments section of the article may damage your belief in humanity; read at your own risk]

Attack of the Media Whores

Pooping in Trash Bags with London’s Squatters [Vice, Feb 2013]

Window

Ummmm….okay, love or hate Vice Magazine (the arty-wank mag), they have published a piece on London squatters; the article has a number of interviews with squatters (but not SQUASH, how dare you!), some gory pics of squatters lying in rubbish and has a rather infantile obsession with “shitting in plastic bags”. In typical Vice style, they take the piss out of everyone, don’t really have any political stand-point and seem to suggest that squatting will lose the battle against the Tory fash-machine; in their favour, the reporter states that squatters are much more interesting to hang out with than property developers (the highest praise in Nathan Barley world). Nevertheless, Vice is just part of a broader non-commital breed of media whores infesting London, hanging out with their corporate Tory mates, doing lines of coke off toilet seats in trendy Hoxton bars, endlessly harping on about their “flat-white economy”; they wouldn’t give a fuck if Britain was a fascist state, ‘cos it’s “all relative man”. A classic case and point is this YouTube video from an ITN “citizen journalism” offshoot (read bunch of media fuckwits with cameras) which made a joke of an illegal eviction in which 40 squatters were made homeless on one of the coldest days of the year. One of these days chaps, you’ll get your comeuppance.

Global Squatting News

Greece: The Attack on Greek Squats [Villa Amalias et al]

Greece

Greece is in the middle of economic meltdown from the irresponsible borrowing done by the previous neo-liberal banker-wanker government and is seeing the resurgence of neo-nazism in the government in the form of the Golden Dawn. As the Greek people suffer the after-effects of mass-privatisation and austerity, squats like Villa Amalias have provided autonomous social centres giving support to local communities and immigrants alike in the wake of the crisis. Nevertheless, the Greek police in conjunction with Golden Dawn (the Greek version of EDL/ BNP) have started clamping down and violently attacking these squats especially as they get in the way of the racist beatings of recent immigrants; a leaked report showed how the government had planned attacks on 40 of these squats to limit their effectiveness. With the eviction of the oldest Greek squat Villa Amalias in December 2012, national and global protests have ensued, with 10,000 gathering for a demonstration in Athens, while squatters in London and Bristol have done solidarity actions in support of their Greek comrades. Two articles here: Battle for the Squats in Athens [libcom; 11th January 2013] and Criminalising Radicalism – The Bombings in Greece [Occupied London, 4th February 2013]

Brazil: “This fight will not be done for you, it will be done by you.” YouTube; January 2013]

[Film by Director: Juliana Vicente; Producers: Carla Comino & Alexandre Borzani; Produced by Steps International & PretaPorte Filmes]. There are 450,000 empty properties São Paulo, and a new movement is reclaiming them for the poorest families. It’s a battle that pitches people’s rights to homes against the rights of home owners. If they are lucky enough to have homes, the poor of São Paulo live in cramped conditions, miles from amenities and work. But there are plenty of places to live in the centre of town and hundreds of families have taken over empty and abandoned buildings and founded new communities. But it’s an action that puts them against the police and the law, as they break in and settle down. “The fight will not be done for you. It will be done by you”.

Ireland: “Squatter told he can stay in NAMA ghost estate home” [Independent; 15 October 2011]

Greece

Mr Tuohy (46), a homeless father, started squatting an empty house in the middle of a new-build estate of 250 homes, most of which were empty. He moved in, making repairs, putting in furniture and facilities, making the empty shell into a home. He was arrested by the gardai (police) for trespass and taken to court; in Ireland squatting is illegal, but the Judge, Catherine Staines, dismissed the case against him claiming that there was “no evidence he had intended to commit an offence”. He has been allowed to remain in the property and the case bodes well for a more progressive stance regarding squatting in the Republic of Ireland.

Housing News

Lambeth Super Co-op

Brix

The utterly corrupt Lambeth Council in London has started proceedings against numerous squats and short-life housing co-operatives in the borough, starting with the eviction of the 30-year old squat Clifton Mansions in 2011, replacing the long-term squatters with Camelot guardians, costing the Brixton taxpayers £440,000 for the privilege. Now Lambeth (dubbing themselves the “co-operative council”…some sort of sick joke) are looking to evict all short-life tenancies in the borough to make way for more property guardians and no doubt smelling big money from liquidating publically-held property for quick cash. In response, those under threat have formed the Lambeth Super Co-op which looks to deploy a diversity of tactics to ensure that this does not happen, protecting their homes and the public purse from the abuses of unaccountable government. More Info about Lambeth Super Co-op here

“Property Guardianship company Ad Hoc in Cardiff [Squatters and Travellers Against Repression (STAR), 17 January 2013]

A statement from STAR, highlighting the encroachment of the property guardian leeches, Ad Hoc, in Wales. Recent property guardian research shows that there are 19 guardian companies in the UK right now, with many of them having offices in number of cities; the big ones, Ad Hoc and Camelot, are Dutch multinationals which grew from a marginal housing option into the behemoths they are today (housing 0.5% of the Dutch population) once squatting was criminalised in Holland and the Christian-right government gave them a public endorsement. The research shows that this “privatised squatting” housing model undermines tenant/ worker rights, encourages a snitch culture amongst its inhabitants, and has an overall negative effect on the surrounding community. It’s no wonder the government, local councils, housing associations and private landlords are rushing to provide them with lush contracts looking after their empty buildings.

 

Haringey Housing Public Event

Stand Up For Your Rights / Decent, Affordable, Secure, Local, Housing For All! Saturday 16th March, 2013, 2pm to 4.30pm Wood Green Library, High Road, N22 Stalls * Information * Presentations * Discussion * Action Supported by: Haringey Housing Action Group, Haringey Defend Council Housing, Haringey Private Tenants Group, Haringey Solidarity Group, Haringey Federation of Residents Associations. More Info here

Last But Not Least….

Freedom Bookshop Firebombed

Free

On the 1st February, the Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel, one of the oldest independent radical bookshops in London was firebombed by an unknown person(s). While there was some serious damage to the interior and stock, no-one was hurt, and with the help of volunteers and donations, the bookshop is already back open after a monumental cleanup. Solidarity with the Freedom Bookshop and well done everyone gathering round to sort them out after this cowardly action. Please see how you can help out too by visiting their website or visiting the shop.