SQUASH NewsRound: September – October 2013

The NewsRound is be a 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.

Squat Group Updates:

squat

SQUASH: As you’ve probably seen by now, SQUASH have been challenging the latest attempt to solicit support to criminalise squatting in commercial premises by the likes of Labour lackeys Chuka Umunna, Tessa Jowell and Lib Peck in the Open Letter Debate . To date the cowardly custards have produced no actual evidence to back up their accusations, and some preliminary investigation into the West Norwood Library case has found: “the £150,000 figure Umunna quoted did indeed include the asbestos clearup costs and the word is that the asbestos was dislodged not by the people who stole the copper roof, but by the cheapo contractors the council got in to waterproof it (ie put a tarp over it).” Hmmmm…so more dodgy accounting from Lambeth then. Also, hot in the pipeline is an article from Labour MP John McDonnell on squatting, which SQUASH has second dibs on….coming to the blog soon.

After a successful exhibition, the Made Possible by Squatting crew have been having a well-deserved rest. However, there is talk about doing a national tour with the exhibition, celebrating the proud history of British and global squatting using the rich cornucopia of original artifacts and exhibits. If you would be able to host the exhibition in your village, town or city (squatted space or otherwise), please contact the Made Possible crew at  info[at]madepossiblebysquatting.co.uk and let them know. Also, still no word why Lush CEO dropped the squatting campaign weeks before it was meant to go into Lush shops.

The London Housing Network has alerted us to a special investigation into the UK’s housing system by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council. Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing is still taking evidence for her inquiry into the UK housing system, looking right across housing tenures. The official report of the inquiry will be considered in March 2014 at the Human Rights Council, but submissions should be sent before early December; they can include case studies, which can be anonymous. If the housing situation is found to be inadequate enough, she will write a Letter of Allegation to the government, which will be a public document and available worldwide. This is the UN’s press release here, the UN web site to collect evidence here: righttohousing.org, and Ms Rolnick and her assistant, Juana Sotomayor can be contacted at: srhousing[at]ohchr.org. A number of people have confirmed that this seems to be a genuine investigation, and will no doubt see a number of government ministers, housing associations, dodgy landlords and others pissing their pants.

Squatting: Illegal Harassment, Celebrations and Endings

Builders Force Entry to Damage 195 Mare Street

“On the 7th October at approximately 10:05 a.m. a group of about a dozen builders forced entry into the social center on Mare Street, Hackney, London. They then proceeded to affix a notice board to the wall declaring that the building was a construction site, and were notified by the occupiers that the property was legally occupied in accordance with the 1977 Criminal Law Act and that they were committing an offence by breaking into the building while it so occupied. Apparently unconcerned that their conduct was illegal, they proceeded to begin gutting the building and to disconnect the buildings water, by cutting the pipe connecting to the water main. The builders were employed by CS Solutions and their supervisor was Jim Casey. No planning permission has been granted for any work to be done on the building; despite this and despite the building’s listed status they proceeded in doing significant damage to the downstairs. The occupiers called the police and notified them of the situation. Upon arriving the police seemed equally unconcerned with stopping their illegal conduct and stood by as the builders proceeded in destroying the building. With the help of a friend from the Advisory Service for Squatters, the occupiers were eventually able to persuade police Sergeant Gomes that the building was legally occupied. The builders then began to leave. However, as they were doing so Jim Casey threatened that he would be back in a week to continue what he had started. The occupiers advised him once again that he would need to take them to court before doing this, and he stated clearly that he did not intend to do this.”

The story was posted on Indymedia UK: “Builders force entry to damage 195 Mare Street – help needed” [IMC UK, 7 October] , which has some useful details in the comments section posted by “Researcher” about CS Solutions and its thug owners; may be worth contacting CS Solutions to make it clear their behaviour is unacceptable (politely of course). The Mare Street crew seem to have bounced back from the violent intrusion and you can check their line-up of events on their blog: http://195marestreet.wordpress.com/.

Kebele Social Centre Celebrates 18 Years

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Taken from the post: Kebele social centre is 18 years young [Bristol Anarchist Bookfair, 8th October] ;  the story of Kabele is a good example of a “Made Possible By Squatting” story; without squatting, this valuable public and social space would never have come about, and the useful facilities it offers would probably have been replaced by some luxury apartments. From the article:

“What started as a squatted empty building in the autumn of 1995, has turned into an 18 year (and counting) experimental project putting anarchist ideas and practices into action on a daily basis.[...] No doubt when a small group of young punks & idealists occupied what they hoped would be a temporary home back in ’95, they wouldn’t have expected it to still be there 18 years later. Amazingly one of the original occupiers remains involved, and there are regular visits from old-timers harking back to the good old days of the late 90′s Reclaim The Streets parties. In fact, the retail space with living accommodation above, on the corner of 14 Robertson Road & Foster Street, in Easton, Bristol, has evolved continually over the years. From defended squatted space, to fundraising for a Housing co-op to buy the premises (off a bank) with a Kultural Projekt downstairs, to its present incarnation as a Community Co-op. A few things have remained constant of course: the donations-based weekly bike workshop, overrun by local kids seeking to keep their bikes on the move; the weekly Sunday evening vegan cafe & social, which raises funds to help keep Kebele running; an emphasis on creative fun, with diy art and the regular DJ parties, street events and many benefit gigs; and its role as a political hub, providing info, literature, contacts, space to meet & organise & discuss.”

To find out more about the centre, Kabele Social Centre’s website is: http://www.kebelecoop.org/

The End of J.B. Spray

jb spray

Not so lucky has been the squatted Perry’s factory in Radford, Nottingham which has been closed by the forces of gentrification and university accommodation speculators, Trivelles International. Taken from the article posted on IMC Nottingham by Lobster Pot: The end of Nottingham’s most famous squat [Nottingham IMC, 6th October]: “A developer called Trivelles International wants to turn the grade II listed building into yet another identikit batch of student accommodation, no doubt at ridiculous rents to keep the riffraff out. It will join the other flats and “execulets” that have monopolised the Russell Street area and increase the gentrification of the town end of Radford. It wasn’t always this way. The J.B. Spray has been squatted a number of times over the past 10 years and used for community events and to house people who would otherwise be homeless. The squatters successfully stopped an eviction attempt by a property management company in 2010, was occupied for community purposes in 2009, hosted the week long Spring into Action series of climate action events in 2007 and was occupied in 2006. It seems the squatting community aren’t the only ones who are against the development. Comments on the Post article are uniformly negative:”Nearly every new development seems to be for students….Has the city sold its soul to the university’s?”, “Increasing supply with little demand, these schemes will become ghost developments”, “To many students flat in Nottingham”. Instead people want “affordable housing for everyone” which seems a vain hope given that Nottingham City Council is in the process of pulling down as many council flats as possible and putting all their residents on the ever expanding waiting list. Squatting is still necessary!”

Operation Elven: Traveller Repression

Taken from a Traveller Solidarity Network call-out, and details posted in the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) website:”Raids on Travellers sites condemned by campaigners” [Netpol, 28 September]:

“In recent weeks Traveller communities across the country have faced another clampdown by police under the title of ‘Operation Elven’. There have been some accusations of robberies from Museums of items such as rhino horns. The police believe that their suspects are Travellers and have been raiding sites across the UK, taking lots of computers, papers, sim cards etc. Officers from 26 forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) have been involved in the operation. Raids have taken place in London, Sussex, Cambridgeshire, the West Midlands, Essex and Northern Ireland. We believe there have been clear attempts to target those who were connected with the organised resistance against the Dale Farm eviction two years ago, supported by reports of frankly pointless violations against friends. Read here for a first-person account. Police confiscations of identification and vehicles have left many unable to work or receive their vital benefits. A raid took place on Smithy Fen in Cambridgeshire, where we have friends, as well as other sites that we are not so familiar with. As part of Operation Elvin there was a raid on a site in Wolverhampton involving 70 police and helicopters. Supporters in Cambridgeshire continue to work very hard on supporting those who have been effected. Grattan Puxon, long-time supporter of Travellers and Roma, was also raided and effectively robbed of his possessions. It appears that the police are using the robberies as an excuse to intimidate the entire Traveller community and anyone willing to stand with them.”

Traveller Solidarity are asking for people to email them with information to get a clearer picture of this shady police operation: Is anything happening in your area? Have sites been raided? Have you been able to help? Please email: travellersolidarity[at]riseup.net and check out their blog for the latest details: www.travellersolidarity.org.

International Solidarity

SqUaT tHe LoT in Calais, France

From a call-out from Calais Migrant Solidarity: “Winter is coming, shelter is a priority in Calais. The police have evicted and destroyed almost our shelter – buildings, camps, tents – in the past weeks. Calais Migrant Solidarity have squatted a social centre, as it gets colder, more and more people are trying to sleep in it. Whilst we try to keep it a safe space for vulnerable people and people working on the ground, it’s getting over filled. The police also broke into our store of blankets/sleeping bags and sprayed them with gas making them unusable. We need supplies, if you are able to arrange a drop off or start collecting tat contact us. There are empty buildings all over Calais town. We need people to come and open and secure them! We need people with skills and energy to join and support our resistance to this border.”

You can email CALAIS MIGRANT SOLIDARITY at calaisolidairty@gmail.com, and check out their blog for all info: http://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/

ZAD Eviction Anniversary

ZAD

The ZAD land occupations in France, set up in opposition to airport expansion and developing into one of the most inspiring DIY eco-village projects, was violently evicted in a series of police/ paramilitary operations in 2012. Remnants of the occupation have come together to organise a decentralised remembrance, actions and celebration of the ZAD occupations. For details check out the post on IMC UK: “Call for decentralised action for the first anniversary of ZAD evictions” [IMC UK, 14th October]

South African Shack Dwellers Evictions and State-sanctioned Murders:

Following a dedication in a previous NewsRound to the murdered housing activist, the following details are from the follow-up solidarity demonstration: “There was a solidarity demonstration with South African shack dwellers resisting evictions on Thursday 3 October at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London. This is response to the South African Police having shot dead a 17 year old girl, Nqobile Nzuza and arrested the Secretary General of Abahlali baseMjondolo, Bandile Mdlalose. Nqobile was shot twice from behind at 5am on Monday 30 September. Two other women were also shot and are in hospital. The crime of those shot was to protest against being forcefully removed from their homes and to be supporters of the shack dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. Nqobile is the third person killed in the settlement, Cato Crest in Durban, this year.” More details can be found on the War on Want website (among others): “End Attacks on Abahlali baseMjondolo! Stop the shootings! Free Bandile Mdlalose!” [War on Want, 4th October]