Bailiffs sent packing by Barnet community power!

** Cross posted from https://sweetswayresists.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/mostafa-eviction-delayed/**

Bailiffs sent away! Mostafa still at Sweets Way!

On Monday, people kept a family from being evicted and pushed a council to reverse the decision that would have left them homeless. But we need to keep up the pressure to keep Mostafa and the family safe.

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Photo by Hannah Nicklin

On Sunday night, many of us didn’t go to sleep. Bailiffs were due at 46 Sweets Way and because we had seen what Mostafa and his family had gone through, and we had seen them failed over and over again by the various systems that are meant to protect them, we knew we needed to prepare with them to stay in their home.

We were prepared to do everything peaceful within our power to stop High Court bailiffs from entering the home of the last family at Sweets Way and making them homeless. Some of us planned to take photos and document the experience, others were prepared to take civil disobedience and face arrest.

But whatever kind of action we spent the night before preparing to do, we prepared to do it because it was right.

As it turned out, there were enough of us there that sending away the bailiffs proved to only require a very passive form of resistance: being there! Enough of us, even, that they didn’t show their faces or even make an attempt to breach the gauntlet of more than 60 people (including allies from Our West Hendon, Barnet Housing Action, Haringey Housing Action Group, Barnet Alliance for Public Services and Black Dissidents) and an extensive array of amateur barricading.

In fact, we only even found out that the bailiffs had come and gone when we called Barnet Council’s lawyers. We asked if the bailiffs were still scheduled to arrive and were told that the two of them that had been dispatched knew immediately they were no match for our collective power, and left. (They didn’t use exactly those words…).

You could feel the sense of collective power in the air – we knew what we had achieved, and the energy was electric! A group of regular people had sent away the bailiffs and kept a family in their home! And we knew we would be able to do it again.

Better yet, as Barnet had been punishing the family over the a small amount of rent arrears accrued since the Council unexpectedly cut their housing benefit, they received a message this afternoon informing them that their housing benefit had been reinstated, retroactive a month ago. This will address their arrears and allow Barnet to once again own up to their responsibility to house the family appropriately.

This is a clear victory spurred by our collective action to highlight the Council’s many failures to Mostafa, and the number of media requests that came off the back of our action. Once again, Barnet need to find the family somewhere to go. And it’s up to us to make sure they have a home until the point where they have an alternative that truly meets their needs.

This will require a lot of work from all of us, preparing to fight off the bailiff threat whenever it rears its ugly head. High Court bailiffs don’t normally offer a time or date when they are coming, and are entitled to use physical force to enter and remove families from a house. Because of this, Mostafa and the family remain barricaded in and ready for an attack.

We need to be there with them.

We have a strong contingent of occupiers staying around Sweets Way at the moment, but we need more people who can stay there (or who live very locally) in the coming days, to ensure an initial line of defence when bailiffs do return. It would be tragic if all our hard work yesterday was lost because a few of us slept late one day.

Get in touch if you live within in a few minutes of the estate, or can come stay over during the coming days. sweetswayresists[AT]gmail[DOT]com / 07812 372 298

We are all inspired by what we were able to do yesterday – let’s be sure it continues to grow!

PS – having made it through many months of intense campaigning without any way of receiving cash donations beyond the bits of cash visitors would sometimes pass along, we have set-up a PayPal account and would appreciate any help in covering some of the extra costs that several of us incurred, personally, during the People’s Regeneration Show Home project. Thank you so much!

 

Eviction Resistance workshop in Hackney, the ball is rolling!!

Another great workshop, this time in Hackney, with Reclaim Hackney, DIGS, and some other groups and individuals. These people are amazing and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they get on with setting up a phone network and resisting evictions. And to keep on working together: more workshops, more documented eviction resistances (when everyone involved is happy with that), more shared knowledge!

Once again, whilst doing this workshop we might have created opportunities for more workshops. And even better: people in Hackney spoke about organizing their own workshops too. We’re all up for helping them out when they start doing it. The ball is rolling: we won’t stop until every single tenant knows their rights and knows what to do when threatened with eviction!

Eviction Timetable, have a look!

We have written this little explanation with a housing barrister:

https://evictionresistance.squat.net/online-resources/eviction-timetable-what-happens-when/

What happens when in the eviction process.

Eviction Resistance workshop in Walthamstow, what a success!

Last Sunday we did an Eviction Resistance workshop organized by local residents and Unite Community.

More than 20 people came. We managed to dispel the mystery and intimidation that the words “eviction resistance” carry, and by the end of the 2 hours workshop, all felt confident that they could face bailiffs and support other people in these situations. They will be given each others phone numbers and email addresses, and will be telling each others when evictions happen in the area: an actual local Eviction Resistance group is born :-)

30 minutes after the workshop, everyone was still there and the air was buzzing with enthusiastic conversations. The vicar had to kick us out by inviting us for a beer next door.

They also decided to have another meeting, in the form of a film screening this time (SI SE PUEDE), where we will be invited to do a workshop again. It should be in the beginning of August. There should be more people there, as well as people from the Walthamstow Private Renters group, who couldn’t make it this time because they had a meeting at the exact same time.
We were told: “Do the exact same workshop. It was great!”

We have now also been invited to do workshops for groups in other boroughs. ER workshops are taking off!

Next workshop: Walthamstow, this Sunday (5th July), 4-6pm

Share and join the Facebook event !

Outline of the workshop:

1. How to resist an eviction

2. Practical steps to build up strength as a community

3. Waltham Forest council housing policy

4. Where do we go from there?

Organized by some Walthamstow residents, with Unite Community and the Eviction Resistance working group of the Radical Housing Network (including Focus E15 Mums, Sweets Way Resists, etc).

Message from Waltham Forest Unite Community: “In Waltham Forest we have now defended two households from being thrown immediately on the street by unscrupulous landlords and let the council know that every abuse of housing need must be tackled. Many local people were concerned for the families and visited them to offer support, so we promised a workshop to follow up these events. Please share this invite widely. Eleanor”.

You don’t have to be a resident of Walthamstow to join us: come, learn, share your knowledge and ideas with us, and build up bonds and community strength with the locals :-)

People Power Doesn’t Wait to Vote in Barnet!

The response to the call-out for Juliet on Monday was truly amazing! More than 1000 of you shared and tweeted the blog, and dozens more wrote to the local MP and councillor in less than 2 days. And today we saw the results. Massive thanks to everyone who came out to Barnet and braved the torrential rains, as well as those that sent emails in support.

First, Juliet, who had been discharged by Barnet Homes along with her four kids, was offered a three bedroom house in the borough. She hasn’t been able to see it yet, but without our voices online and protesting outside Barnet Homes she wouldn’t have been made the offer. However, while Juliet’s offer was a great success, the dignity finally afforded to her family must be a human right for all, and not the result of a public outcry.

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So at 4pm we decided to blockade the A1000, London’s main commuter road outside Barnet Homes’ offices, to protest the wider patterns of social cleansing across London. We’ve seen families being pushed beyond the capital and put through immeasurable stress, just so that companies like Annington Homes can bulldoze good houses to make way for luxury flats.

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Following the blockade we marched through Sweets Way and broke Annington’s undemocratic injunction against political protest on the estate. This injunction should never have been granted in the first place. And since we were walking around in the road with banners anyway, we thought: ‘Why not break that injunction while we’re at it?’

So we did. Then we went back to our occupied social centre (which will be two months old on Friday), drank tea and discussed the day’s events. We also got to meet lots of new faces who had responded to the call-out online and, having felt a bit of what people power can achieve, were all the more committed to getting involved in the campaign.

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Today we had a partial victory – on a day when, if we hadn’t come together to fight, a family would be at risk of being thrown out onto the street. In the days ahead, with our growing numbers and profile, we are sure to have more victories as we fight alongside other Sweets Way families that continue to be moved around like furniture.

Tomorrow, some of us will vote, some of us may not, but we’ll all be here together on Friday, fighting for our homes and for a London that is truly a city for all, and not only for those who can afford the kinds of properties Annington is destroying Sweets Way to build.

If you want to get involved, pop by the social centre and say hello this weekend as we celebrate two months of occupation!

 

Eviction successfully resisted in Camberwell!

Saffi, her sisters, mother, and grandmother are housed by Southwark council in temporary accommodation, but have been evicted by the council and continuously moved about – including being sent out to Plumstead. They are currently living on an estate in Camberwell that the council has earmarked for demolition. On Sunday, 3rd May we received this e-mail from her.

Good afternoon, my name is Safie Emila Sellu. I am 14 years old turning 15 on the 16th June. I live with my younger sisters who are 5 and 7. My ill grandmother and single mother. We are located in Southeast London. Southwark.

Yesterday my family and I joined a peaceful protest in Ealing, with the supportive Working Revolutionary people’s party. After the marching, we attended a meeting, where we we thankfully met one of your staffs who instructed me to write this message to ask for you support on Tuesday 5th May 2015.

Considering the fact that like all our other houses we have lived in, we have been evicted from our ramshackle house at 51 Benhill Road London SE5 7QY and we are expected to leave at 11:00 and become homeless again.

We constantly keep moving from one house to another nonstop for over the past years. This is extremely difficult because I am missing school and I have my GCSE exams and my family have been undergoing this difficult process all our life and I feel we need to put a stop to this.

Thus I am pleading with all my might, that you come down and support us on along with some other generous people coming to peacefully protest and make our voices audible concerning the way the council are treating our community.

Thank you

photo credit: People's Republic of SouthwarkPhoto: People’s Republic of Southwark

On the morning of Tuesday, 5th May, nearly forty people turned up at Saffi’s home from Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth, Aylesbury and Guiness, squatters, Lambeth Housing Activists, Green & Black Cross, Reclaim Brixton, Revolutionary Workers Party, People’s Republic of Southwark, and others.

The council are trying to evict the family for alleged rent arrears. Contrary to what Southwark Council claim, rent arrears does not automatically make you ‘intentionally homeless’. The family have lawyers who are appealing the decision, but in the meantime collective action kept the family in their home.

After seeing a balcony of people and banners determined to block their way, the bailiffs and builders didn’t approach but hid around the corner talking with the police. Once they had left, Saffi’s mum delivered a powerful victory speech about how many families are facing eviction, and promised to help any others in the same situation fight for their homes. Her speech can be watched here:

She then invited us all in for a victory feast of jollof rice with chicken and plantain.

Eviction resistance victory feast!Eviction resistance victory feast!

SI SE PUEDE: a documentary to watch!

The documentary “SI SE PUEDE” by the PAH (Spanish Housing movement) is now available online for free and in multiple languages. It shows how people got organized to provide mutual support and resist hundreds of evictions. It is so interesting and inspirational; their approach to campaigning and resisting evictions is amazing! In the last few months it has influenced many housing campaigns in London, and many groups in the Radical Housing Network.

Watch it if you can! Even better, watch it with your friends/fellow campaigners:

English:

Español: https://youtu.be/elnjoFVv_Os

Deutsch: https://vimeo.com/126099795

Italiano: https://vimeo.com/126120237

Supporter of Trace (Lambeth) goes door knocking to create Eviction resistance phone tree

After yesterday’s eviction resistance action in support of 35 years resident Trace in Lambeth, supporters went door knocking in the neighbourhood, to create a phone tree for resisting future eviction attempts.

Housing activists stop Lambeth bailiffs evicting a disabled woman - in photos - Lillieshall Road, London SW4 0LP, April 2015

This followup action was initiated by a single supporter:

“I went down there again today on what turned out to be a false alarm this time. A police van was seen driving past and Trace asked for people to come in case the bailiffs came after the reconnaissance.   I decided to use the time to do a little more than sit around to see if the bailiffs were going to turn up. I said I was going to canvas her neighbours to build a list of people who could be part of a rapid response if the bailiffs did turn up. A couple of other people said they would canvas as well.


I did one street over from where Trace lives. Most doors I knocked nobody answered, probably at work or too elderly to open the door to a stranger without an appointment. Those who did answer I explained I had come over from Herne Hill on what was a false alarm and what we were trying to do was build a rapid response team of local people who if they were around could lend support at short notice. Of the seven people I did speak to, six of them agreed to give their phone numbers and said they would walk round to Trace’s if they received a text saying the bailiffs were there.


The other people who went canvassing got an equally good response. This is an example of what building a movement means in practice, not relying on a small number of activists who will burn themselves out trying to respond to everything.”

Single tenant stops eviction with “calm assertiveness that something can’t possible be right”

A single tenant in London stopped his eviction a few days ago, non-violently and with “calm assertiveness”.

In his own words:

“I had the bailiff turn up yesterday to enforce the eviction, I explained that I thought the order was not valid as I had been to court and found out that all the previous paperwork had gone to the wrong address and I had been told by the court to submit this in an email.

The bailiff explained that being told by a clerk on the inquiries line is not the same as getting a ruling from a judge and therefore the eviction order was still valid. I explained that it cannot possibly be right to grant an order for repossession without the right to a hearing in court to contest it. He said that is what you put a defense claim form in for. I said the clerk had not told me this. He said clerks are not qualified to give legal advice, your solicitor should have told you what to do.

I insisted that without the basis for the judgement how could I contest it and that had been posted to the wrong address. He said it was his discretion and since I had made efforts to contact the court he wasn’t going to enforce the eviction now – but I should speak to my lawyer again.

Then he left and when I spoke to the estate manager/caretaker later he said that previously people had lost their tempers with the bailiff but a calm assertiveness that something can’t possibly be right works much better. I had a hammer behind the door though if they had turned up in force to change the locks.

I feel I’m still angry they can treat people like this, to them it is just another property to me it is my home. But it buys me more time, I’m not going to make it easy for these b***ards. I’m still determined to fight them in whatever way I can.”

 

And a few more words about his future resistance:

We have a group started and a day of action planned for with banners, press and the invite will go out for everyone to join us. The whole estate (apart from a couple of snitches) is aware of what we are trying to start.

I only did yesterday alone because I knew it would be easy, and getting people to take time off work when they didn’t need to seemed a waste.”

Long-term solutions are reached through organizing with neighbors and a series of little victories. Well done!