SQUASH NewsRound: January – February 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: January 2015 – February 2015:

1] March for Homes & the Aylesbury Estate Occupation

2] 12 Bar Occupation

3] Love Activists Evicted (again)

4] Crossroads Women’s Centre 40th anniversary Celebration & Film

5] Parliamentary Update

6] Legal Cases

7] Positive Media

8] Negative Media

9] Upcoming Events

—Occupied London—

March for Homes & the Aylesbury Estate Occupation

m4h

The March for Homes took place on a rainy Saturday on 31st January, with twin marches starting off from Elephant and Castle (South London) and Spitalfields (East London), meeting up at the London Town Hall, Tower Bridge. Apart from the ubiquitous SWP, the south London leg had a squatters bloc, boaters bloc (National Barge and Traveller’s Association) and an assortment of others (students, council tenants, LA workers, etc), making an impressive snake of banners, placards and bodies. The march passed the recently-demolished Heygate Estate (RIP) and wound its way through the backstreets of Elephant, passing council estates and just as many bland new-builds; the local community was both bemused and supportive as the march passed through. The two marches combined at the southside of Tower Bridge, and flooded into Potters Fields, congregating one side of Norman Foster’s glass carbuncle. There people listened to the speeches in the freezing cold, visited the stalls (such as the Radical Housing Network) and were treated by some impromptu poetry and jamming. As everyone started to head home, squatters and Focus E15 mums broke into the new luxury complex next-door and occupied a few of the flats overlooking the river; there was a stand-off with police but no TSG were called in. Since pictures tell it best, here are links to Guy Smallman, Andy Worthington, and Urban 75.

ayles

However, this seems to have been a diversion for the real planned action by squatters bloc. Rumours spread of a contingent of 100-200 squatters making their way for Elephant and Castle; police sirens wailed as they sped off in that direction. This turned out to be the political occupation of part of the Aylesbury Estate by a range people who don’t want to see the Aylesbury Estate end up the same way as the Heygate (ie decant, demolition, luxury towerblocks). No.’s 77 – 105 Chartridge, Westmoreland Road, SE17 are now being occupied on a rota-basis, with events, workdays and film-showings. They need everyone’s help, so get down there to see what you can do. For more details:

Email: aylesbury[at]riseup[dot]net

Website:fightfortheaylesbury.wordpress.com/

For more background info on the Aylesbury Estate

Unlike the 12-Bar, the occupation has got zero-Mainstream Media coverage; lack of celebrities, too political, not “sexy” enough? Therefore, it’s our media sources that are putting the story out there…oh and an article in the professional housing press (Inside Housing):

“Aylesbury Estate Occupied” [Rabble, 1 Feb 2015]

“Statement from the Aylesbury Estate occupation” [Rabble, 2 Feb 2015]

“Aylesbury Estate Occupied After Yesterday’s Housing March” [johnnyvoid, 1 Feb 2015]

“Protestors occupy estate earmarked for £1.5bn regeneration” [Inside Housing, 2 Feb 2015]

The 12 Bar Occupation & the Bohemians

12 Bar

The 12 Bar on Denmark Street, Soho has become a cause-celeb, as one of the last remaining live music venues in the area with a history; gone are the Astoria, Intrepid Fox and Metros (to name a few) as the cultural heart is ripped out of Soho in favour of yuppy deli’s, grotesque high-rises and the behemoth Crossrail as it rips apart the West End. Thus the Bohemians squatted the venue, and started campaigning straight away, issuing a manifesto, holding an open-mic night, and conducting an open community meeting attended by around 30+ people squeezed into main gig space. The owners, Consolidated Developments, took them to court to get an Interim Possession Order (IPO), which they got, and bailiffs were booked for midday 30th February; the Bohemians called a street festival of resistance in response.

On the Friday, a group of 20+ supporters gathered outside the venue, attended by a gaggle of photographers on the other side of the street. The motley crew of resistors included men dressed in onesy’s, a transvestite in a red dress clutching a bunch of red roses (wonderfully Soho), punks, and various musicians, their guitars strapped across their backs like cultural guerrilla-fighters. By 1pm around 8 bailiffs were present, conducted by representatives for Consolidated; a stand-off ensued in the freezing cold, lines drawn, songs sung, bailiffs berated, and bodies moved back and forth to keep the other side in check. Builders and bailiffs tried to break-in through the back, which was fought off, and inside, occupiers tended to the array of barricades constructed to keep the bailiffs out. By 3pm, the bailiffs had drifted off in various directions, and a guard was kept on the door until the music event that evening. Since then the venue has attracted even more artists, punters and publicity, such as Frank Turner’s gig, and is now a rolling 24/7 extravaganza to stop the venue being demolished. News just in: the 12 Bar has been evicted (5th Feb, 10am).

The Mainstream Media seem to have got behind, or at least neutral about, the occupation, including the scum Evening Standard. No doubt celebrity (current and historical), backing of liberal campaigns (eg Save Soho, Save Tin Pan Alley) and 12-Bar’s massive support on London have helped.

“Meeting the Protesters Squatting Soho’s Doomed 12-Bar Club” [Vice, 22 Jan 2015]

“Music fans flood in as squatters throw open doors of Soho live venue” [Guardian, 23 Jan 2015]

“Squatters occupy Soho bar where Adele made UK debut” [Evening Standard, 26 Jan 2015]

“Denmark Street’s not dead yet” [Independent, 28 Jan 2015] – good pics

“Frank Turner plays surprise show at London’s occupied 12 Bar Club” [NME, 2 Feb 2015]

“Frank Turner and other musicians play impromptu gigs in support of squatters occupying closed Soho bar” [Evening Standard, 4 Feb 2015]

Love Activists

After their media coup at Christmas, opening the former RBS bank HQ to the homeless, the Love Activists moved to the former Nickelodeon TV offices at Rathbone Place off Tottenham Court road. They continued their food kitchen around Trafalgar Square, distributing food to the street homeless, until the Met police decided that enough was enough, and came in heavy handed. The Evening Standard justified the attack as a “two-day crackdown on squatters and housing activists in one of London’s most iconic squares after complaints of harassment”, with the police using dispersal powers to evict the Love Activists from the public square. The Daily Mail covered the eviction of Rathbone Place, giving at least some space to interviews with the occupants, but as usual, the comments section, and much of the article, is riddled with filth.

“Police launch two-day crackdown on Trafalgar Square squatters” [Evening Standard, 20 Jan 2015]

“Angry scenes as squatters calling themselves the ‘Love Activists’ are kicked out of the former Nickelodeon TV offices in London by bailiffs” [Daily Mail, 13 January 2015]

Crossroads Women’s Centre 40th Anniversary

cwc

Another event given very little coverage in the Mainstream Media was the 40th anniversary of the Crossroads Women’s Centre, one of the too few women’s centres in London. The anniversary was celebrated on 23rd January at their Kentish Town location, with a Made Possible by Squatting exhibition, the premier of a documentary about the remarkable women who started the centre in a squat in Euston, followed by live music. The event attracted a whole range of people, young and old, women and men, activists and campaigners, supporters and old-timers; by the start of the film showing, the room was packed to the rafters.

The documentary, made by Rob and three apprentices, was an excellent 22 minute piece that wove archive footage/ photos with interviews and animation, telling the story of the various buildings the Centre moved to and from as they were shunted about, and the groups they spawned from their bold experiment. The centre provided the space for women to come together to collectivise their struggles as a sex, to take action against rape, dangers in prostitution, domestic violence and immigration racism, and fighting for payment for housework. Despite evictions, lack of space and attacks by fascists, the women (and men) kept on, occupying the town hall to demand a new space, fundraising and generally being a thorn in the side of authority, who just wanted them to go away. After the film, some of the original members spoke, providing more insight and inspiring a new generation of feminists with their words; these amazing women were a real breath of fresh air in light of the current trend for men-hating feminism (one such described having sex with a man as “sleeping with the enemy”). Unlike many talkers, these women did it, and 40 years on, they are still undaunted, unashamedly feminist, and kind, hospitable and welcoming; well done on an excellent celebration! The Crossroads Women’s Centre always needs volunteers, help and most of all, donations, so they can expand the centre to provide more space for more and bigger groups….please help if you can.

“Living History – 40th Anniversary of the Crossroads Women’s Centre” [Fawcett Society, 22 Jan 2015]

“It started right here: pioneering protection for women from all backgrounds” [thekentishtowner, 28 Jan 2015]

Parliamentary Update

Squatting has appeared twice in recent debates in Parliament (not including the term “diddly-squat” which has also appeared twice). The first is in relation to homeless young people not being housed by the council, cited as an example of the alternative measures young people take when faced with no home; the reference is neutral, makes the link between squatting and homelessness, and surely something which is not a criminal offence, rather a self-help measure. The second is part of a raft of changes to the way the Church of England handles its affairs and property; the reference here is to the ability for local parish councils (PCC) to evict squatters and tenants without first referring up to their superiors (diocesan). This may mean that evictions from church property will be quicker, and will require less oversight, or may be an opportunity for squatters to cut a deal with the local parish directly….only time will tell.

Homeless Young People — [John Robertson in the Chair]

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay, Liberal Democrat):

“When homeless people do approach their council, the consequences of being turned away with no support can be disastrous. Many are left with no option but to sleep on the floors of friends and family, squat in abandoned buildings or, in the worst examples, sleep rough […] Mental and physical health problems can be exacerbated by rough sleeping. Homelessness is also dangerous, with homeless people 13 times more likely to be victims of crime than the general public. Indeed, the average age of death for someone sleeping rough is just 47, which is 30 years younger than the national average. Homelessness is also expensive. As well as the huge personal cost to individuals, the financial costs are significant. The annual cost of homelessness to the Exchequer is estimated to be £1 billion.”

Ecclesiastical Property Measure — Motion to Direct

The Bishop of Derby (Bishop):

“My Lords, this Measure makes a modest change to the statutory framework for land and property held on permanent trusts by parochial church councils. At present, legal title to all PCC land is vested in the “diocesan authority”—usually the diocesan board of finance—which holds it as trustee for the PCC, by virtue of the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956. The diocesan authority’s consent is required to all kinds of transactions, with the exception of leases for a year or less. […] First, the Measure removes entirely the requirement for a PCC to obtain the consent of the diocesan authority before bringing legal proceedings; for example, to evict squatters or non-paying tenants from parish property. On the coming into force of this Measure it will be for a PCC to decide, in every case, whether it is in its interests to bring proceedings. That is important, because it puts local knowledge to the forefront.”

Legal Cases

This is a court case which seems to confirm that claims for adverse possession of registered land are still valid, despite the retrospective nature of s144 LASPO which criminalises squatting in residential premises even the building was first occupied before September 2011 (when the new law came into effect). The significance is lost on a non-legal head, but should hopefully be of use to someone more attuned to these things.

England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Decisions)

Best, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Justice (Rev 1) [2015] EWCA Civ 17 (21 January 2015)

Transcript found at: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/17.html

Positive Media

70 squat

More positive media stories, both related to squatting’s illustrious past in London. The first article is inspired by Dudanski’s book “Squat City Rocks” and covers the contribution squatting made to the wave of innovative British music that came out of the 1970’s. The second is a photo catagolue by mainstream London 24 (!) with lots of great black & white pictures from the 1970’s/80’s squat scene, when almost everyone in London squatted at some point to keep a roof over their heads. Don’t let this die!

“Squat City Rocks” [Rosanne Rabinowitz, 3 Feb 2015]

“Squatting in London: 14 historical pictures of the city’s subculture” [London24, 13 Jan 2015]

Negative Media

The right-wing press are still pressing the dirty, undisciplined, drug-debauched, murdering and anti-progess scum that are squatters, no doubt lapped up by their reactionary, morally-upright readers. Recent stories seem to have changed tack a little, focussing on illegal raves/ drugs, and how squatters are holding back “economic development” (Detroit)….yeah, like bulldozing homes and subsidised high-rises ever solved the problems of fundamental economic bankruptcy. The story of a IT professional who took an overdose of MDMA at a squat party in London (Evening Standard) seems the most direct threat, with Detective Superintendent Chris Howell telling Southwark coroner’s court “it was “difficult” to intervene in illegal raves because police did not have the legal power to evict party-goers”; the coroner found no evidence to conclude this contributed to his death. With the Met police regularly blocking access to squat parties, and locking the party-goers in, this, more than anything, is going to lead to a tragic incident sooner or later.

“‘Illegal ravers could have saved our son': parents hit out after inquest into drugs death” [Evening standard, 17 December 2015]

“Woman stabbed 70 times after finding squatter in her home” [The Times, 24 Jan 2015]

“‘I woke up in October and thought it was May': Addicted to ‘ice’ at just 16, how Jess’s life spiralled out of control after smoking it just once… and how she beat the vile drug that is killing our teenagers” [Australian Daily Mail, 23 Jan 2015]

“Squatters slow Detroit’s plan to bulldoze way to prosperity” [Daily Mail, 29 Jan 2015]

Upcoming Events

Block the Budget and Week of Action February 2015

btb

Called by the Radical Housing Network, this week of action is set to bring housing groups from across London and tenure together to focus their efforts on Boris’ planned budget for London. This budget will see acres of public land handed over to developers for peanuts, the onset of the grotesque London Plan, and a green light to continue the social cleansing of London. Get involved and help stop this budget getting through. See RHN website for details.

14th – 23rd February 2015

Various locations //// 23rd February at City Hall, Tower Bridge

 

The Anti-Social Centre in Euston is having a film screening of “SI SE PUEDE: Seven days at PAH Barcelona” about the radical Spanish housing-action movement which is growing by the day. With many thousands made homeless by the financial crisis (overheated property market), PAH has organised resistance to evictions, held mass gatherings, and joined a network of similar groups from across the country.

Sunday 8th February 2015 //// 7pm

3 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H 0EA

Well Grounded – support space for activists While not necessarily squatting related, a group called Well Grounded are providing regular support for activists in danger of burning-out. Fighting against injustice and defending space often puts people in terrible situations, exposed to frightening experiences, and the heavy workloads take their toll. Well Grounded are a “group of activists who are passionate about sustaining activism from the inside out, encouraging a climate of looking after ourselves and each other so that we can keep on the fight for a better world.” For details, visit: http://wellgrounded.org.uk/ or email well-grounded[at]riseup[dot]net

Drop in on the first Sunday of the month ///// between 2pm – 6pm

Toynbee Hall Wellbeing Centre, 28 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LS