SQUASH NewsRound: June – November 2014

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.

Stories in SQUASH NewsRound: June – November 2014

  • ALERT: Illegal Evictions on the rise
  • The Loss of Social Centres and Public Space Sparks Protests
  • Focus E15 Mothers Occupation
  • Mike Weatherley MP Steps Down
  • Positive Comment Pieces on Squatting
  • Evening Standard Anti-Squatting Stories
  • Squatting on Television
  • Squat History: Piccadilly & Berlin

SQUASH has been a little pre-occupied over the Summer, so at long last, here’s an update of stories on squatting that appeared between June and November 2014.

ALERT: ILLEGAL EVICTIONS

It has come to SQUASH’s attention that there is currently a trend for illegal evictions in London at the moment. There are private security companies advertising their services to “get rid” of squatters in what are being dubbed “common law evictions”; fill in an online form, pay a hefty fee and hey presto, you get your property back. The illegal eviction happens something like this: a group of several body-armoured thugs rush their way into the squat, tell everyone to get out, blocking the door to anyone trying to get in. These “bailiffs” have no ID, no paperwork and no court papers; they get their way through brutal force. The police generally take about an hour+ to get there, and when they do, they claim it’s a “civil matter” (not so under Section 6).

Be aware, and send any info on/ footage of these illegal firms to the Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS). Also, check the ASS website for the latest on court cases around s144: Four more S144 Defendants Walk Free! . Squatting is still legal, Keep squatting!

THE LOSS OF SOCIAL CENTRES AND PUBLIC SPACE SPARKS PROTESTS

MIPIM

The largest global property fair, MIPIM, came to London 15th-17th October 2014, bringing property developers, financiers, and local councils together to carve up the public domain for private profit. A number of housing campaign groups from across London decided to take action, under the Radical Housing Network banner. There was a protest of 400+ people outside the MIPIM conference centre, and an action which closed the event for an hour or more. There was a counterconference held at the Guilford Road squat near Russell Square, and 2,000 spoof newspapers called the Standard Evening, distributed at tube stations on the last day of the event. Finally, the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and to the City, with representatives from 14 European countries, met over that weekend, visiting transition heathrow and discussing co-ordinated housing action across Europe. All in all, a magnificent response to MIPIM, which has brought campaigns in London and Europe much closer together. Well done!

Check the Radical Housing Network website for resources coming out of the counterconference and future events to co-ordinate action against housing insecurity.

fenton hall

A group of dedicated campaigners have squatted Fenton Town Hall in Stoke-On-Trent, a massive Victorian hall, opposing its demolition by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and calling for it to be used as a community space instead. During a meeting on the 24th November, between the Ministry and the Save Fenton Town Hall Campaign, the MOJ offered a week to put in a full proposal for community use. However just shortly after the meeting ended they appeared to do a u-turn and served notice to quit within 24hrs. The occupiers have continued to resist, and have opened the building as a community project (open 10am to 8pm each day) with a cafe, exhibitions, library, workshops, talks and campaign organising. Plans include a weekly film night, farmers markets, live music evenings, meeting spaces and many more ideas (timetable of events which will be up online on the Friends of Fenton Hall facebook group and also in the building itself). For Enquiries: contact Jane (07903836634), Gee (07891209856) or email: info[at]fentontownhall.org.uk

Some News Links:

squatting days

A number of events have been held across Europe over the summer in response to the increasing state repression of squats and squatting, that has led to the loss of much autonomous space across the continent (and the world). “Squatting Days” was an event held for European squatters in Hamburg during the 27th – 31st August 2014 . Another was the Utrecht Squatters Gathering (29th – 30th Nov) and a squatters demo held in Maastricht on November 2014 to fight the intended eviction of the De Vloek social centre and for establishing  Freezones to enable more political, social and cultural experiments. London recently lost another of its promising anti-social centres and meeting spaces near Russell Square, as bailiffs broke in the day after a successful resistance. Now more than ever, the need to protect the few spaces we have is becoming imperative.

Check squatting’s best news-source squat!net for up-to-date European and global stories

FOCUS E15 MOTHERS OCCUPATION

e15

For anyone who hasn’t heard of the E15 Mothers and their campaign for decent housing, check out their website: http://focuse15.org/ or their facebook page. The Focus E15 Mothers have almost changed the face of the housing struggle overnight; their hard-hitting, straight-talking, no bullshit attitude have won them admirers and enemies alike. Their demands are simple, their action direct and they have been shaking up a storm in Newham, East London for a good year now. In September, they occupied some empty houses on the decanted Carpenters Estate as a means to rehouse themselves, and their protest got lots of media attention. If any further criminalisation of squatting happens, these mums could be spending time in jail for their actions, so let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

“Why I’m occupying a boarded-up east London council house” [Guardian, 23 Sept 2014]

“For real politics, don’t look to parliament but to an empty London housing estate” [Guardian, 23 Sept 2014]

“Focus E15 Mothers: Meet the Caprepenters Estate’s Newest Occupiers” [Wire, Sept 2014]

“4 Lessons We Should Learn From Focus E15 Mothers” [Wire, Sept 2014]

“Empty council estate occupation by young mothers made homeless after hostel closure slammed by Newham councillors” [Evening Standard, 24 Sept 2014]

MIKE WEATHERLEY MP STEPS DOWN

weatherley w band

Mike Weatherley, the enemy of squatters and originator of “Weatherley’s Law” (s144 LSAPO), has decided not to stand as MP for Hove and Portslade in the upcoming General Elections. Maybe the negative response to his pushing through unpopular stealth legislation on squatting, or perhaps “job done”, property-magnate cash-received, he can now move on to his next filthy operation. For anyone wondering, he seems to have become (self)appointed “Intellectual Property Adviser to the Prime Minister” and is no doubt selling himself as an academic expert in copyright-protection; don’t be surprised if we see downloading music becoming a terrorist offense in the near future.

Some simpering accounts on Weatherley’s resignation in the MSM

“Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade, to stand down in 2015” [BBC, 3 July 2014]

“Conservative MP Mike Weatherley mixes music and politics but his life is about much more than just a party” [Brighton and Hove News, 8 July 2014]

Weatherley’s “Academic” Papers

 

POSITIVE COMMENT PIECES ON SQUATTING

It’s good to see, that despite the MSM’s attempt to demonise squatting, there are still people writing positive pieces on their experiences in the squatting community, and highlighting the importance of squatting socially, politically, economically and culturally. Keep it up!

“Squatting: a survival strategy or an alternative lifestyle?” [99 percent Campaign, 15 Aug 2014]

“On squatting, homelessness and haircuts” [Fleabite, 27 Oct 2014]

“Richard Madeley Tells Radio Times: ‘I Sympathise With People Who Squat In Offices’” [Huff Post, 27 Nov 2014]

“The Criminalisation of Squatting” [testedbylife, 12 Nov 2014]

MAINSTREAM MEDIA: EVENING STANDARD

squat dogs

So even though the Evening Standard acknowledges that homelessness and housing is becoming an ever more pressing issue in the capital (“Number of young rough sleepers in London doubles in four years” [3 July 2014]), they’re still regularly publishing anti-squatting stories. Their aim seems to be to keep the “squatters are scum” narrative alive, so that whatever political party gets in during the General Elections, the ground will be prepared for further criminalisation. The Tory’s are gagging to complete their ambitious project and Labour have already proved it likes the idea (Lib Peck, Chuka Umunna). Any dirt on the Standard, feel free to contact us.

“Squatters in former police station accused of stripping metal, spying on neighbours and using bullwhip to make dogs aggressive” [ES, 5 June 2014]

“Pub squatters have ruined our lives for a year, say Mornington Crescent residents” [ES, 18 July 2014]

“London’s filthiest squats pictured as debt collectors report rise in eviction orders” [ES, 16 Oct 2014]

ON TELEVISION

There have been some positive coverage of squatting in the UK by the “BBC World Update: Daily Commute”  around the 18 August 2014, but very little compared to their attack on it. BBC poverty-porn merchants are still airing “The Sheriffs Are Coming”, a reality TV show about high court bailiffs roughing people up for cash. It seems squat evictions have become a regular theme on the show, no doubt for their juicy action content, for example “The Sherriffs Are Coming [Series 3, Episode 4]”. Squatters from a recent eviction in Lewisham told me how they were woken at 5am by bailiffs, who had a camera crew with them (no doubt from this show); the producer and cameraperson at times pushed the exhausted squatters around in the hope that something would kick-off for the camera. Pure exploitation of the homeless to get sensational footage; great work from the BBC yet again.

SQUAT HISTORY

A bit of the history of the squat scene in the West End during the 1960’s, with some interesting links for those researching squatting’s rich history in London. Hippy-dilly: squatting and the London Street Commune at 144 Piccadilly [Nov 2011]

berlin

Berlin Besetzt – the history of Berlin Squats

A website that has gathered together a load of resources about the history of the Berlin squat scene, an aspect that has made Berlin one of the most exciting European cities of recent years. There is an interactive map, picture and material resources and more. Mostly (if not all) in German, but great compilation!