Camesquat 2016 – ‘First Three Days’

camesquat

In September 2016, a group of squatters did an audacious occupation, squatting the ex-headquarters of property guardians, Camelot – renaming it Camesquat. A press release to announce the occupation was sent out, the occupation becoming the object of a number of mainstream press articles (Guardian, Hackney Gazette), including Camelot’s PR stunt gone wrong. A supporter, who was there during the three-day confrontation to secure the property against unlawful recovery by Camelot’s security goons, gives a behind-the-scene account. Thanks to the anonymous author for pulling this together, giving a useful guide to those thinking of taking similar actions.

“In light of the recent Occupation of Camelot’s former London HQ, Some of us who turned up to support the occupiers during the two day siege of the building thought a brief synopsis of events may be of interest.

DAY ONE MONDAY

A callout was made on Monday evening asking for assistance at the recently occupied property. Security had sieged building by standing on land ancilliary to the private property between the entrance and the pavement; denying access to more squatters and supplies. And refusing to readmit any of the occupiers should they have chosen to leave. Supporters of the squat joined security in doorway surrounding them effectively sieging their siege. Making it clear that they were free to fuck off at any point and not come back.

The head of the operation who claimed to be Camelot (a huge bald wideboy type) told stories about his ever so charitable feeding of the homeless on xmas and how Camelot was so much greater than any other guardian company and ever so socially responsible. Blah blah blah. We nicknamed him Saint Dennis for his troubles.

At one point St Dennis gave us 25 quid get himself coffee and us beers – a tactic to soften us up and prove he was a reasonable guy or just a flash git. Some of us understandably don’t turn down a free beer whilst others refused on principle. Diversity of tactics in this circumstance meant both choices meant “fuck-you Dennis”.

Throughout the evening we had the upper hand in term of being able to swap in and out of the doorway whilst the security did not have the numbers to do more than maintain a presence in the doorway. To make sure they couldn’t bulk up their numbers we created a barricade using bikes.

After a while Comrade Conrad, St. D’s Number 2, who was one of the sieged-siegers, was jigging as he needed to piss himself. Over the course of the evening a number of tactics were employed to encourage this. Many of us made impressions of the sound of pissing, made quite clear how refreshing it had been when we had been off to piss elsewhere, water was poured from head-height onto the street within earshot and later into a wok that had been found in the street and even played the sound of waterfalls through the little soundsystem at them.

At one point advantage was taken of where the security were not paying attention and low numbers of police to get more people into the squat using the fire escape.

Police were in attendance on and off over the course of the night in varying numbers. Both squatters and Camelot had varying degrees of success telling the cops the law but it was all a bit too confusing for them. They were generally of the opinion that both parties had the right to be in the doorway and didn’t want to be involved. As time went on more security arrived as did more squatters and supporters. Attempts were made to muscle the security out of the doorway which lead to increased cop numbers and at one stage a standoff with one side of the street filled with cops and security and the squat side (with the exception of the doorway) filled with squatters and support.

Obviously the pigs are not our natural allies but in situations like this in the UK they should not automatically take the side of the security. Its not easy using such a blunt bunch of tools but continued legal argument (and the fact even most of the cops recognised St D was a muppet) was enough to put them in the position that both sides had to be dealt with. A dispersal order was put in place until noon the following day.

Of course neither us nor the security had any interest in being dispersed so we held our ground until the order was enforced, this resulted in a short period of chaos, some damaged bikes, one slightly blinder squatter with broken glasses and an (unneeded) extra reason to believe ACAB and a few bruises. But this was a victory for us ending the siege for the night and enabling the freedom of those occupying the building.

Squatters Win! (or so we thought…)

DAY TWO TUESDAY

With the dispersal order due to expire at noon, a couple of our lot went down to the squat to see what was going to happen. The security were obviously aware of the expiration as well, and returned to their position in the doorway. Game on.

A few of us jumped back into the doorway to share the 1.5 metre-squared space with a half-dozen security. The call-outs went out for further support. Saint Dennis was back on the scene, as was Comrade Conrad, although this time Comrade was smart enough to not put himself at the back of the siege and instead stood on the footpath trading insults with the squatter known only as “Stinky”. Stinky, being trained and highly-skilled in the art of google tracked down Comrade and The Saint, and it was revealed that Saint Dennis was actually Saint Ed. Comrade to his credit didn’t lie about his name.

The police arrived, but said they had come down to deal with a harassment case, and if they couldn’t find who had called them then they were leaving as they weren’t here to deal with the siege. Useless to the last.

At this point Sian Berry, Member of the London Assembly, and of the Green Party, arrived to show support and bring food and drink to the squatters inside. Security refused, which surprised Sian but not us. While Sian was talking to the security about this we took the opportunity to take the door. A little bit of wiggling and readjustment (read: out-securitying the security) and we had moved the low-paid employees of Camelot’s contractor and taken control of the door. Access was ours. To a degree.

The police arrived again, and despite not engaging in the situation, they capitulated to Sian Berry’s political influence (hah) and agreed to allow us to provide food to those inside. Thankfully we had already taken the door because even with police there to supervise, there was no guarantee that security wouldn’t have just broken in the second the door was opened.

Before the actual food delivery took place we tried to sneak Sian and her friend into the squat, but at the same time the security had the idea of sending their biggest boy to come wailing in trying to push our lot out the way. With a lot of effort we managed to hold our ground, and people also filmed the guy really giving it all that. The police arrived yet again and despite complaints of assault refused once again to do anything, telling someone to go to the police station if they wished to report any crime.

We still held the door, trading pleasantries and insults with the security (it was a very strange situation to be in two days in a row). More squatters arrived with more supplies, food, beer, and cigarettes. Those of us holding the door actually refrained from drinking too much beer, lest we find ourselves in the sticky situation that Comrade Conrad did the day before. The difference I guess is that we were prepared to piss ourselves, should it come to that.

The stand-off was quite stagnant at this point, lots of people standing around, but no-one ready to make the first move. A precarious situation as a wrong move could swing things either way. With Saint Ed on his 15th redbull and getting agitated, another security company was called in. These boys, much bigger than most of the other poor sods we were fighting, were dressed as though they had just come from a black-tie dinner, in white suits and black jackets. They all piled into the doorway with us, and I think we set one of those pointless Guinness World Records for number of people in a space. The resultant creation of a moshpit led one squatter to literally stage-dive and crowdsurf into the fray, and it was painfully hilarious to see the embarrassed denial from the security as the crowdsurfer accused each of them of touching her bum.

The soundsystem arrived blasting Inner Terrestrial’s Squatters Rights (of course) and this bouyed people’s spirits. At least until the police arrived once again, and this time actually did something. Unfortunately that was to arrest Stinky for an alleged assault from the previous day. At this point things got a bit stagnant again. We still controlled the door, we could get supplies in but nothing else, and they outnumbered us by a lot. More security were called and were waiting in the wings.

We made a plan. If we stayed as things were, we would lose numbers and then they could simply muscle us out at some point. The dispersal order of the previous day had given us a reprieve and we felt like we needed one now. Making space behind us, we invited one of our lot to jump in next to the door. When the security laid hands on him things really kicked off. Squatters at the front saw what was going on and attempted to make their way into the fray and security started to grab and swing at people. They may be paid to do this, but it’s our life, and we weren’t having any of it. It was a proper scrap, and by the end we got most of their lot out of the doorway and prepared ourselves for more. Tonnes of police came streaming down the street, and Saint Ed pulled his thugs back to the side of the road.

The police decided enough was enough, and issued the dispersal order. Everyone started to leave, but we realised the security had only pulled into the adjacent street, part of the exclusion zone. Upon being queried, the police admitted they had cheated us, only squatters were being dispersed and the security were simply asked to leave for a bit and calm down. We were furious, but there wasn’t much we could do. We attempted to leave and regroup to plan our next move, but the fucking pigs stopped our soundsystem and demanded the name and address of the person cycling it. Despite having no real reason (ASBO is such a catch-all), they were insistent, detaining the person against the wall and one particularly big bastard roughing up and threatening to arrest those of us who came close to support them. After eventually getting what they wanted, we were able to leave, pissed off and wanting to get pissed up.

We intended to share what happened later on tuesday night but its not got through yet.

DAY THREE WEDNESDAY

Day Three of The Siege Of Camelot, a new dawn and the hope of a golden era of liberty and prosperity.

A familiar mug appeared in front of the glass door. Saint Ed. Thought to have been vanquished, he appeared alone without his cronies, his bald head glistening in the golden sun that had arisen to celebrate the rightful victors. He knocked on the door. We shook our heads. He took his phone and wallet out, placed them on the ground and then stood away from the door, waving for us to come outside, and placed his hands up.

We agreed to see what he was up to. We got everything we expected of him. A plead of innocence, the usual excuse of simply doing a job, and an attempt to compliment our physical appearances. The charm (read: slime) factor was turned up to 11, and he began his spiel. As a manager for Camelot, he was charged with finding uses for the buildings they take on, and in this case he really appreciated the idea of squatters doing music and yoga workshops (gag). He of course was all about helping people, and wanted to help broker a deal. With a charity business model he would secure us the use of the building, Camelot would maintain the building, and promote the project across Europe. The Saint of course had a tale of how he witnessed a homeless man mug another homeless man and would even love to run self-defence courses for homeless and squatters in the space. He seemed to fool himself into thinking that this was all an honest proposal to help people out. We could see it for what it was: Camelot attempting to put the spin on their ultimate embarrassment and co-opt the movement against them, turning squatters into guardians. The ultimate anti-squat.

He was willing to offer a meeting for us to propose our business model the next week. We saw it as a way of delaying the whole eviction process and maximise the embarrassment for Camelot. One person went out to talk with Saint Ed, to discuss how it would work. Ed started to let slip his true colours, and put paid to any creeping thoughts that may have entered the heads of the more-hippy types in the squat. He insisted that there may be no homeless angle with regards to the proposal. Then he started demanding that any posters offensive to Camelot be taken down. No more than 5 people in the building at a time. And no smoking. Upon rejecting these conditions, we were informed that Ed would be withdrawing his offer to meet with us. Like a child throwing toys out of the cot.

The Camelot Headquarters remains a squat, controlled by the people for whom it is now a home. The fight continues against Camelot and other such guardian companies that exploit empty properties for profit while denying shelter to the most vulnerable.

Squatters Win.”

camesquat