It appears that the Coalition government are planning to criminalise the unauthorised occupation of non-residential buildings. Backbench bigots have been pushing the idea for a while, and in the last month it seems to have gained the ear of their leaders up front.
Please write to your MP and urge them to ensure these plans are abandoned before they make it onto paper.
Dear [your MP’s name],
In September of last year, it became a criminal offence to squat unoccupied residential buildings. This move came at a time of a major housing crisis: there are currently around a million unoccupied or empty homes in the UK, and growing homelessness. The criminalisation of squatting has been shown to be impacting disproportionately on vulnerable people, and has already been blamed for at least one street death, when Daniel Gauntlett died of hypothermia on the doorstep of an empty bungalow after warnings from police that it would be illegal for him to enter.
There are now signs that the government is seeking to extend this criminalisation beyond the residential sector. I am deeply concerned about the potential impacts on protest and civil liberties in this country. In the response to the last consultation, the government stated:
“Stopping short of criminalising squatting in non-residential buildings represents a balanced compromise … By limiting the offence to the unauthorised occupation of residential buildings, the Government will eliminate the risk that protest activities in non-residential premises such as university buildings are captured by the offence.”
I am concerned that this balance, such as it was, is now being totally overturned. As a letter in the Guardian on the 18th June made clear, campus and workplace occupations have played a pivotal role in student, worker, and anti-cuts movements, and at a time of austerity and massive assaults on education and the welfare state, it appears that this government is trying to criminalise resistance by the back door. I urge you to raise these concerns on my behalf, and to do all in your power to ensure that these plans are dropped.