SQUASH NewsRound: All Hallows Eve-Guy Fawkes 2013 Special Edition

pumpkin

As the weather gets bitter and squatting hots up, SQUASH are putting out a special combined All Hallows Eve and Guy Fawkes NewsRound edition to keep the people up-to-date. It seems the ghosties of squatting-past have come back to haunt the ruling Con-Dem elite, who used the Dark Arts to turn the act of occupying  empty residential property into a criminal offense, literally overnight. And when someone claimed that Guy Fawkes was “the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions”, well, we can only agree. Squashlings have witnessed first-hand the passing of s144 LASPO (and the Secret Courts Bill) without proper debate and through the backdoor, only strengthening the argument that Britain has already become a totalitarian state.

Two Years Ago….

…on All Hallows Eve, squat supporters hit the streets to make a point about the effects the proposed law would have on the homeless. A giddy procession traveled half of London before converging on Parliament Hill for a picnic and sleep-out on the eve of the law being voted through Parliament. The small group of around 50 supporters found themselves outnumbered and outgunned by around two hundred overenthusiastic Met, who proceeded to surround, trap and bash the pro-squatting lobbyists. Many were badly hurt, others arrested, several charged under the since-repealed SOCPA or that old chestnut “assault PC”; luckily no-one was killed (unlike Ian Tomlinson) and almost everyone got off lightly in court. Much has happened since those heady days (arrest of innocents like Alex Haigh, Friern Barnet Library, the death of homeless man Daniel Gauntlett), and on the two year anniversary of the “Out of the squats, onto the Streets” picnic, here’s a couple of memory-joggers:

‘Out of the squats, onto the streets’ Photos [SQUASH Blog, 4th November 2011]

Clashes at Parliament Square squatting protest – video [Guardian, 1 November 2011]

Interview from Park Street

squat

It seems the occupation on Park Street, Southwark is going well, and proving to be an inspiration to squatters and non-squatters alike. For background and useful links on the occupation visit the somewhat factual SQUASH blog on it. We’ve since received more information from the political protest, which has been converted into an interview to make it look like SQUASH is out there getting the facts from the street. (Please note: Dr X is a fictitious name, denoting neither gender nor identity in order to protect our source):

SQUASH: So what’s up with Park Street? What’s the story with the building and what’s it like?

Dr X: The building is divided into three distinct parts. One of these parts has been left empty and unmaintained by the council for many years, possibly since they acquired it from the GLC in 1986, and now needs substantial repairs. It is surrounded by scaffolding. The other two parts of the building were in use – one as an office and one as a family home – until quite recently. As far as we know the family of council tenants moved out between one and two years ago. We are occupying the part that they lived in. It’s in pretty good condition, decorated, fully carpetted throughout, etc. You may be able to see colour photos of it in tomorrow’s Guardian.

SQUASH: So any hassle from the police or private security firms?

Dr X: No, not really. A group of police officers attended the scene late on Monday afternoon. Because no criminal offences had taken place, they left again without taking further action. They realised quite quickly that the occupiers and their supporters had a much better grasp of the law than they did themselves – at one point they suggested that our actions consituted the offence of ‘aggravated trespass’ but were swiftly re-educated by the assembled squatters. The Advisory Service for Squatters recently produced a new legal warning for use in protest situations like this, and it seems to have worked well. We haven’t had problems with police harassment or surveillance, or hostility from anyone else, really. There aren’t any private security guards involved…a single employee of sitex-orbis visited for a while on Monday, due to the alarm going off, but was extremely chilled out, fairly friendly, and not hostile at all. Most of the journalists have been respectful and asked interesting questions.

SQUASH: What’s the likely outcome for the building once the political protest has been come to an end? Full-scale demolition?

Dr X: That’s highly UNLIKELY. The building isn’t that bad, and it is listed, as you have noticed. Various property experts have been quoted as saying that they think there’s a lot of demand for interesting large period family homes, from super-wealthy families, so the new owners may even just refurbish it as it is (possibly even reconverting the office space back into basements for the two residential units). Where did the full-demolition theory come from?

SQUASH: I just made it up. So what do you guys need down there (like food, public support, etc)? What are your plans for the future?

Dr X: We have been inundated with donations of food, so are no longer asking for them. We’ve had to redistribute most of what’s been given to us. We’re not lonely, and we haven’t asked for random strangers to come and visit us. We’re just getting on with our protest. Once we’ve finished, we will move on to protest other things. People who support what we’re doing could do the same things themselves, whether that’s setting up a local housing justice group like HASL or squatting somewhere in order to make a political point. If anybody is inspired to do this, we strongly urge them to contact the Squatters Legal Network first, for some general advice pertaining to the law.

SQUASH: Finally, what do you think about SQUASH?

Dr X: You’re a bunch of wastrels! <click>

It looks like the occupation at Park Street is drawing to a close now that Southwark council have summoned them to court to regain possession of the property; read the latest at: http://housingactionsouthwarkandlambeth.wordpress.com/

Squat News

On Occupations and Social Centres

ashmount

A group of squatters have occupied a former Ashmount school in the borough of Islington, London after security guards left the building when the £40,000 a year contract with the security company they were working for was cancelled. It seems the council want the building to be turned into luxury apartments, while another group, backed by for-profit education companies, is plumping for it to be turned into a Free School (aka an Academy or a pro-corporate privatised school). Instead, the cross-generational squatters occupying the building are rooting for a community-based art and education centre that’s free and open to all. Here’s to you. (It seems a Vice journo’s looking to do an article on the occupation; better be a positive one, Dirty Digger brown-noser). Read more here:

Ashmount squatters are ‘not against free school …if it’s really free’ [Islington Tribune, 25 October 2013]

Dissident Island, the cutting-edge online-radio show, have just released their new show which includes interviews with 195 Mare Street autonomous Social Centre and No Borders on the most recent crack downs on migrants in Calais and the UK and what people can do about it. Then on the decks DJ Kairos.

[Episode 129 of Dissident Island Radio - broadcast on 1 November 2013]

Squatters Win s144 Appeals

A squatter convicted under s144 had the conviction unanimously overturned for the lack of any evidence. The judge in the case laid down some stringent guidelines on what the police must do to establish proof that someone lives in a squat, but unfortunately refused to define what constitutes residential.  Rooftop Resistance said: “A deeper analysis will follow, for now we can only say if you are accused of squatting a residential building, don’t talk to police at all (no comment interview) and plead not guilty. This law is fucked and unenforceable.” Since then, there has been more in-depth analysis from Rooftop Resistance with: “Fuck s144! Some quick analysis of the Brighton case” [Rooftop Resistance; 8th November 2013], which has been reposted in IMC UK [8th November] under the same title.

“Another squatting case collapses on appeal at Crown Court – defendant acquitted” [IMC UK, 7th November 2013] This article analyses the Mold Crown Court’s case against Tristan Dixon, who was arrested and charged for squatting a derelict cottage in Wales. As with the Brighton case, proving the occupier was “living” or “intending to live” in the residential property is extremely difficult to prove and therefore led to his acquittal. This is positive news for those resisting the criminalisation of the homeless.

Brighton Bad: Weatherley in the Dock

Meanwhile, Mike Weatherley pressed charges against Alex Cline, a university lecturer, for calling him a “coward” when he visited the University of Sussex (and was successfully repelled). Not only does the 25-year old Cline face a jail sentence, but this pathetic case is costing around £900 a day in the courts, especially as the prosecutor and Weatherley seem to be faffing about a lot and delaying the case from being heard in a timely fashion. Housing War are providing a blow by blow account from the courtroom on twitter, which makes some fascinating reading (some excerpts below). Good luck Alex.

For more info visit the highly informative website:  http://rooftopresistance.squat.net/ and the following excerpts taken from Housing War’s twitter account: http://twitter.com/housingwar

Weatherley: The most terrifiying chant was “One Solution, Execution” #MikeWeatherleyIsACoward

Weatherley: “When I was in the van i had to clear many items of vegetable matter off myself” #MikeWeatherleyIsACoward

Weatherley categorically confirms the tomatoes on his overcoat were not brought to campus by him

Intern Witness: there were people chanting “lots of standard tory scum” #MikeWeatherleyIsACoward

Judge intrigued by phrase ‘standard tory slurs’ – welcome to brighton mate!

Mike’s been caught out lying about quite a few points #MikeWeatherleyIsACoward

Weatherley grilled over his ability to know better than video evidence about stuff happening behind him.

Defence- im aware you are a politician but you are not answering my question

Weatherley always looks down when talking so when he lies he doesnt have to look at the judge. Clever.

Weatherley about to be grilled by defence but 1st more faffing about dates for trial to continue..

Non-Commercial House (Spitalfields) Remembered

free shop

As the weather turns bitter and the consumerism of Christmas returns once more, SQUASH remembers one of the best-loved squatted social centres of recent times, Non-Commercial House (NCH) near the Heart of Darkness in the City. NCH was a free-shop run from a long abandoned shop on Commercial Street owned by the Corporation of London (aka London’s offshore financial centre). People dropped their clothes off, the collective hung them up and kept the shop open, and people came in and took stuff for free (How much?!). It was visited by people from all walks of life, from local homeless people (for life-saving warm clothes and blankets) to passing hipsters (out of curiosity); one could always count on a good browse, an interesting chat, a hot brew and a skipped panne chocolat. The Corporation tried to evict the shop a number of times, but the collective successfully resisted and/or came back for another round. Eventually, the nasty Corporation kicked them out for good, and today the Free-Shop still stands empty (as do many of the warehouses behind it).

Timeline of the Free-Shopping Rollercoaster:

1)the Grand Opening of Non Commercial House, London[IMC UK, 4th July, 2009]

2)London’s Non Commercial House CALL OUT to share the fun!! [IMC UK; 18 September 2009]

3)Resist the FreeShop Eviction in London! [IMC UK, 22 October 2009]

4)Non Commercial House is still here! [IMC UK; 26 Nov 2009]

5)Another Buy Nothing Day at the Freeshop [IMC London, 1 December 2009]

6)The Non Commercial House is Not There Any More! [IMC London; 1 December 2009]

7)Non Commercial House is Back! [16 Jan 2010, IMC London]