SQUASH Newsround: December 2014 – January 2015

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: December 2014 – January 2015

  • Solidarity for Chanti Ollin, Mexico
  • Parliamentary Whispers
  • Love Activists Cause Christmas Storm
  • Occupy Democracy & Operation Safe Winter
  • Upcoming Events – January 2015
  • Positive Media – Videos
  • Positive Media – Articles
  • Negative Media – Articles

Call-out for International Solidarity – Chanti Ollin, Mexico

ollin

Statement distributed on lists: “At 6am yesterday morning (9th Jan), Chanti Ollin, a 12 year old squat in Mexico City, was evicted illegally and unexpectedly. There was no eviction order, and the squat had been fighting successfully in the courts to keep the building from being passed on to a large development company.

There were around 10 arrests during the eviction. In Mexico, detainees can be kept indefinitely if they don’t/can’t/won’t pay bail. The bail for these arrests so far is $11,891 pesos (equivalent of £534.58), which is a lot of money here. There have been call-outs to raise this, and there is also talk of refusing to pay it to the government in order to highlight people’s lack of rights and the corrupt prison system. More people were arrested and brutally beaten at the solidarity demo outside the copshop. This eviction comes less than a week after the International Festival of Rebellion and Resistance against capitalism, called by EZLN (Zapatista communities) and the Sexta International, of which Chanti are members. Chanti is also involved in the solidarity movements for the 43 assasinated students disappeared during protests in Ayotzinapa. It is quite clear why the Mexican government would want this active, autonomous squat to disappear too.

The building was re-occupied today! The squatters have called out for support in order to occupy the building, and also to spread the word about the arrests. ¿Are the London squat networks up for calling a solidarity action or a benefit? Banner drops/Demo outside the Mexican Embassy/Messages of support?

https://www.facebook.com/chantiollinmx

http://mexico.indymedia.org/spip.php?article3500

https://chantiollinmx.wordpress.com/

http://sexta-azcapotzalco.blogspot.mx/2015/01/comunicado-del-chanti-ollin-las.html

Stop the repression of squatters and anarchists ¡Alto a la represión y a la criminalización de la protesta social! ¡Presos políticos libertad!

Also see Squat!net’s running news & background on Chanti Ollin.

Parliamentary Whispers

There have been rumours that top Labour ministers are looking to amend LASPO, so that buildings empty for more than 2 years will not be deemed residential. However, until SQUASH have seen this in writing, and have had time to assess its purpose, we can’t comment. Fresh into the new year, it seems Tory politicians are already on the case with squatting. Here is a question from Hendon Tory MP to the Minister of State asking if efforts are underway to prosecute more squatters under s144 LASPO, met with a decently evasive answer:

From: Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 7 January 2015, cW)

Matthew Offord (Hendon, Conservative): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what discussions his Department has had with the Crown Prosecution Service on ensuring that prosecutions are made under squatting legislation.

Michael Penning (The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice; Hemel Hempstead, Conservative): Squatting in someone’s home can cause the rightful owner untold misery and it is right that the practice is now criminal. We worked closely with the enforcement agencies when preparing for the commencement of the offence of squatting in a residential building, created by section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Prosecutions will always be brought where appropriate.

Some factual inaccuracies in these statements:

  • 1] “Squatting in someone’s home can cause the rightful owner untold misery”: squatters don’t squat people’s “homes”; they occupy abandoned properties, which by definition is not the owner’s primary residence or “home”.
  • 2] “and it is right that the practice is now criminal”: the law always forbade squatting in someone’s home under DRO and PIO legislation
  • 3] “We worked closely with the enforcement agencies when preparing for the commencement of the offence of squatting”: Neither SQUASH nor Crisis received any information about these guidelines, required by LASPO before it was implemented.

Love Activists Create a Christmas Storm

Love

A group of squatting activists took over the old HQ of bankrupted Royal Bank of Scotland in Charing Cross in the run-up to Christmas. Their plan was to create a shelter for homeless people in the capital, open a soup kitchen and hold regular workshops and events. Their action received a lot of positive media coverage and respect from the general public. Sadly the building was illegally evicted only a few days later, before the project could blossom. Even then, the Love Activists kept on, opening a soup kitchen on the streets outside, which was then evicted on New Year’s Eve by the police. They continue to operate a street kitchen in front of the National Portrait Gallery and some have moved in to new space in Fitzrovia. Check the Love Activists Facebook for more updates.

“Love Activists turn former RBS office in London into housing protest squat” [Guardian, 23 December 2014]

“The scandal of empty buildings made us take direct action on homelessness” [Guardian, 26 Dec 2014]

“Squatting protesters take over former RBS office” [Independent, 24 Dec 2014]

“Squatters calling themselves ‘Love Activists’ take over old bank HQ on Trafalgar Square” [ES, 24 Dec 2014]

Occupy Democracy & Operation Safe Winter

Occupy

Occupy Democracy are currently running a programme of occupations, with one a month until the general election in the UK, to highlight the complete farce that calls itself “democracy” in Britain. Their third occupation (20-21st December 2014) was themed around housing and homelessness, and had representatives from Focus E15 Mothers and Our West Hendon down to talk about the housing struggles in their areas. There was also a talk by Phoenix on squatting [“squatting and the housing crisis”, Bambuser] and these talks attracted around 100+ people. Numerous activist groups are now gearing up to tackle housing and homelessness; Anonymous launched their Operation Safe Winter campaign in October 2014, aimed at helping homeless people through the harsh winter months. Occupy’s third occupation was one such action as part of this call-out. t:#OpSafeWinter t:#occupydemocracy

Background to Operation Safe Winter (#OpSafeWinter):

“Operation Safe Winter 2014” [Anon Insiders, Oct 2014]

“#OpSafeWinter: Anonymous fights homelessness worldwide” [The Daily Dot, 4 Jan 2014]

“#OpSafeWinter: UK Anonymous battle austerity with homeless campaign” [RT, Oct 2014]

Upcoming Events – January 2015

Crossroads

Made Possible by Squatting, a group promoting the history of squatting and its impact on society today, has over the previous few months updated their website to show the catalogue of hundreds of artefacts and images they collected for their first exhibition back in September 2013. The exhibition will be back on show at Crossroads Women’s Centre, the oldest women’s centre remaining in London that started out in a squat in Drummond Street near Euston station in 1975. If MPBS’s last event is anything to go by, this “Exhibition Opening, World Film Premiere, & Live Music” should be top rate.

Friday 23rd January, 2015 //// 6-9pm

Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London, NW5 2DX

Facebook Event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/579624452181798/?pnref=story

March for Homes is a housing demonstration called by Defend Council Housing and South London People’s Assembly, to be held on 31st January 2015 at various locations around London. Part of this is will be gathering called by Focus E15 Mothers to reoccupy the Carpenter’s Estate and protest any further evictions. They will have their sound system and banners, and would like people to come down and join in.

Saturday 31st January 2015 /// 12 noon

Shoreditch Church, London

Positive Squat Media – Videos

Two new pro-squatting videos have just been released, and will add to the archive of useful media materials that can be used to promote squatting and tackle negative stereotypes. The first video (Squats of Camden) shows the difficulties of squatting under the new law (s144 LASPO), but in true squatter-style, the characters persevere in good humour and practical  approach. The second video is about a skater-occupation in Greenwich, fighting the redevelopment of an old car wash in order to create a public skatepark.

Squats of Camden Documentary (12 mins) ///// Produced by: Sebastian Nita and Leutrim Ratkoceri (Hajdukat Balkan)

The Story of the Car Wash Collective (16 mins) ///// Produced by: Kid Productions

Positive Squat Media – Articles

Fanny Malinen has just finished her article on the housing crisis in London, which includes interviews with SQUASH and Focus E15 Mothers, asking “what is the solution?”. Squat the lot, of course.

“Reclaim London: what solution to the housing crisis?” [Fanny Malinen, contributoria, Jan 2015]

An in-depth article delving into the squats and anarchy that swept East Berlin with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and made it one of the most vibrant epicentres in Europe.

Zero Hour: The First Days of New Berlin” [Boston Review, 4 November 2014]

Negative Squat Media – Articles

There’s the usual story of squatters causing shop owners “pain” as they put a roof over their heads; this one from Weatherley’s stomping ground, Brighton:

“Squatters invade gallery as new leaseholder tries to open up” [The Argus, 24 November 2014]

Another kind of story, primarily emerging from the US, is that of people squatting derelict mansions, especially in light of rolling bankruptcies in the US. Usually done with fake documents, in a country where squatting is illegal, the defendants face prison charges. Of course, for Daily Hate readers, the real issue is that these people are getting to stay in mansions for nothing, which for the jealous and envious, is a crime worse than murder.

“Couple arrested for squatting in $1million home using photoshopped deed after bragging about good fortune on Facebook” [Daily Mail, 11 Dec 2014]

“Former Hedge Fund Manager Arrested After Squatting In Million Dollar Home” [Zero Hedge, 3 Jan 2015]