Category Archives: squatters

Turning a legal “defeat” into a real victory: The Sweets Way social centre has moved!

Cross-posted from https://sweetswayresists.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/time-for-a-bigger-place/

Sweets Way Resists responds to a predictably unfair legal decision and gets on with fighting social cleansing.

Today one of the most long-standing principles of British law was reinforced: that private property rights hold greater importance than human rights. A Barnet County Court judge decided to rule against our protest and social centre occupation on the Sweets Way estate, in favour of social cleansing property firm, Annington, even though agreeing with most of our arguments in the courtroom.

Not only did they grant Annington possession over the 160 or so homes of the Sweets Way estate, they even gave them an injunction against future protests taking place anywhere on the site! This is unprecedented and a worryingly draconian case for all involved in housing justice work. However, as long as private property is deemed more legally important than a range of human rights, this kind of thing will happen.

But what happened after the injunction is truly remarkable!

Upon our return from court, we found that the social centre at 60 Sweets Way had been emptied of all the things that made it beautiful. Meanwhile a new property – a five bedroom at 76 Oakleigh Road North, owned by Annington as well, but just beyond the injunction and possession zones – had been occupied and filled with all the makings of a new social centre!

There’s a Mexican proverb that feels appropriate for us today:

‘They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds.’

The courts may be stacked against us in the fight for decent homes, but the courts have never been where our power lies. Every time they try to shovel another heap of dirt on top of us and hope we’ll go away, we shoot up through the soil with another burst of strength!

So we lost in the courts, but we won in the homes of Sweets Way! And we’ll be here to keep the question of social cleansing on the agenda, and support one another as we fight to protect these buildings from demolition and secure decent homes for all those who have already been forced out of Sweets Way.

As always, come pay us a visit (We’re on Oakleigh Road North now, backing onto Sweets Way), send us food and household stuff if you are able to, keep calling Annington’s offices, and sign the petition to stop the demolition of Sweets Way!

Together, we can defeat giants!

Sweets Way occupation

A beautiful house has been occupied on the Sweets Way estate in Barnet. Come down to check out the estate, chat to some local residents, and help create a community space!

The Sweets Way estate is in the process of a total decant, with about 15 households left of almost 160. The houses are in perfect condition, but are due to be knocked down by developer Annington Homes to double the density with only 33 ‘affordable’ units. Residents have no right of return. The estate has been used as temporary accommodation for Barnet Council via Notting Hill Housing Trust, in some cases for up to 6 years. The residents are at the beginning of their political action together, and are currently coming together to discuss their collective demands of the council.

Occupied house and banners

This is yet another case of developers manipulating the class composition of an area to increase their profits. Residents who have been in Barnet for decades are being forced out, aided by council policy to force up rents to 80% of market rates. They are looking for support in this battle, so if you can get on the Northern line we are only 26mins from Kings Cross.

Check Barnet Housing Action Group and the Radical Housing Network sites, as well as @SweetsWayN20 twitter for updates.

First and foremost, it is the solidarity of people coming and helping out that will win back the homes in this community. Come meet us and support us!

VIDEO: the children of Sweets Way speak up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyeD-x-uDCA

WEATHERLY’S LAW

A few weeks ago, we heard the tragic news that the new anti-squatting legislation (section 144 of the LASPO bill) had claimed it’s first life. Daniel Gauntlett, a 35 year old homeless man, froze to death in front of an empty, boarded up bungalow in Kent.  Reports state that the police prevented him from sheltering in the building by threatening  arrest under the new offence of squatting in a residential building. Not wishing to break the law, he gave up hope of getting out of the -2 freeze and bedded down on the porch of the building. As a result, he contracted hypothermia and lost his life. The full article can be read here.

Obviously, this has caused absolute outrage amongst squatters and others who warned the government that vulnerable people would face serious risks if squatting was criminalised. Sadly, those in power did not listen.

Here’s some of the responses to this awful, awful news:

A new website which, quite rightly, points the finger of blame at Mike Weatherly, the morally bankrupt Hove MP who pushed through this inhumane legislation.

Mike Weatherly’s  response to claims that he is personally responsible for Daniel Gauntlett’s death can be found here.

SQUASH campaigners wrote an open letter to Weatherly and The Argus to dispel some of the ridiculous misinformation that Weatherly spouts about squatters.

Labour Mp for Hays and Harlington, John Mc Donnell

People are being made unnecessarily homeless and very vulnerable people are suffering as a consequence. This legislation was based upon prejudice and has only made matters worse. This new evidence demonstrates so clearly the need to repeal this misguided law.’ John McDonnell MP.

Youtube’s angry taxi driver is reduced to tears in his response.

And finally, a news international blog post here.

 

Rest in peace Daniel Gauntlett. We will not forget you.

 

FIRST SQUATTASTIC OF 2013: RESISTANCE SPECIAL

NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE

Early Thursday morning we received some very disturbing news. Private bailiffs had smashed their way into a squatted building and were violently removing the sleepy occupants. The building, an empty commercial unit in South Bermondsey, had been occupied for less than 48 hours before the owner called in heavies to get the squatters out. Without going through the courts,  this was of course completely illegal.

One female squatter gave her account of the mornings events: ‘At 7am I woke up to the sound of screaming. Around 20 large men with crowbars and hammers were going from room to room, violently dragging people from their beds to the floor and screaming ‘GET OUT!’. When they came to my room, my partner asked them how they could remove people from the building without a court warrant. They replied by threatening to ‘do him in’  with a crowbar. As I was being pushed out of the building I managed to break free, grab my dog and barricade myself in a room. I called the police immediately’

The police arrived fairly promptly at the scene. On speaking to the bailiffs and squatters they made the decision that the eviction would still go ahead as there was ‘nothing they could do’. The officer in charge was repeatedly told that the bailiffs had used violence to enter the building unlawfully and that this contravened section 6 of the criminal law act 1977.  In addition, one of the squatters had been stabbed by a bailiff in the scuffle to remove him from the building. Yet, the police response was ‘Sorry for the violence, but there’s nothing we can do’.

Thus, despite the wrong doing of the property owner and bailiffs, the squatters were eventually thrown out onto the street. In response to the violence used to  enter the property, the bailiffs claimed to have found the entrance door ‘wide open’. The police seemed to believe this, despite the considerable damage done   to the door ( possibly done through forced entry?)

The squatters who were evicted have been taken in to neighbouring squats and the stab victim received hospital treatment.  This is sadly yet another incident were squatters have been  treated as lower class citizens by the authorities.  Police complaints have been made, we’ll update when we get more info about their progress.

 

CITY OF LONDON POLICE: YET ANOTHER ILLEGAL EVICTION

 

Last Monday, the resistance mobilised in response to threat of  unlawful eviction.

A group of around 30 homeless young people had occupied an empty building in the city of London. However, after a few days of shelter they received a visit from one of the UK’s most corrupt corporations – the city of London police.  They were told that they would have to leave the building with immediate effect as they were committing ‘aggravated trespass’. Knowing this was not the case, they sought legal advice and a legal observer went to their assistance.

The forces of darkness, however, decided to continue on with their empty threats  despite knowing full well that no offence was being committed. The resistance began mobilising outside the building and after a few hours there was an impressive 60 strong turnout. After a few hours of anxious waiting, information came in that riot cops were being briefed in a side street close to the building.  Those inside and outside the building began preparing themselves for the violence that was inevitably about to come.

At round 9pm, 7 hours after the police had first arrived, 20 riot cops charged  the building and forcefully threw members of the peaceful resistance, locked on in front of the main entrance, to the floor.  Violent scuffles were had as people tried to clamber to their feet.  Those inside the building were dragged out and dumped on the pavement.  Within ten minutes, the eviction was over and the group back out on the streets.

The only offence that was committed, to our knowledge, was when a member of the Met police punched one of the evictees directly in the face while shouting ‘move back!’. We’re pretty sure that this is not an orthodox way of crowd control… We’ve seen the footage and have strongly advised  the individual to press charges.

So. The City of London police are at it again – wasting time and resources to  evict homeless people from empty buildings. Here’s a video from a particularly memorable incident that happened last year. The city of London police called  in the TSG to unlawfully evict a newly opened squat. The crime? An allegation of theft…… of a padlock. Lol, proportionate.

Oh and more on aggravated trespass here

 

YET ANOTHER UNLAWFUL EVICTION….

With hours left before squatting in a residential property became illegal; a Territorial support group backing up enforcement officers smashed their way into a residential property in Dalston yesterday and unlawfully evicted the building of its many residents. 

An intimate moment post illegal eviction  Enforcement officer & tsg.jpg
TSG and Enforcement Officer
On arrival at the crime scene we found a group of shocked people standing on the pavement surrounded by their personal possessions.  Scheduled eviction date was the 26thof September 2012 and they believed that they would be evicted on this date as stated by the court. One person peddled furiously to Gee street county court where he told court officers of the illegal eviction taking place. After checking court documents it was agreed that this was the case and the eviction should be stopped immediately. When this information was relayed to the officers involved in the on-going eviction they replied ‘Ah well, it’s too late now’….

With full knowledge that the eviction was illegal the police continued on with their work. When we spoke to the police about their actions the feeling on their part was that they were the law. This is not so. The police force are the upholders of law; when this is forgotten we move another step closer to a police state. Thankfully the people evicted yesterday will not have to sleep on the streets. Friends and supporters have taken them in.  However, this will not be the case for many other people .

The streets are going to fill with rough sleepers while buildings remain empty for years. To say that a property owner has the right to do anything they like with a building is morally bankrupt. A property owner has a duty of care to the community the property is in .You cannot leave buildings empty for years on end while people are homeless.

WHATEVER THEY SAY, SQUATTING WILL STAY!!

The international squatting symbol

According to Robert Neuwith , author of Shadow cities ,there are more  than  a billion squatters living on this planet.  One in seven people. 


Brazilian squat community

Evidently there is a huge global need for land to grow food on and homes in which to live.  Yet, according to academic Kesia Reeve, “squatting is largely absent from policy and academic debate and is rarely conceptualized, as a problem, as a symptom, or as a social or housing movement.” 




South African Squats

The global response on the part of the 1% has been to make squatting  illegal in most countries. Despite this criminalisation of a huge political movement, (squatting is political), the occupation of empty buildings and land continues.



Squatted Land in London


In the UK, section 144 of the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill 2012 criminalises squatting in a residential buildings. The Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS) keep their website current and will let people know when this legislation is enacted. Check it for updates: www.squatter.org.uk



Jamaican squat


Eviction Resistance will be hosting the next London squattastic event.  This will be a great opportunity for London squatters, and guests to come together to brain storm tactics that will ensure squatting continues in England and Wales post criminalisation . It will be on the 2nd of September, from 2pm-6pm. Keep checking this blog for more updates. 





AVON & SOMERSET POLICE: FOUL PLAY

66 Queen Square, site of tonight's illegal eviction by Avon & Somerset police
66 Queens Square Bristol, site of Tuesday’s illegal eviction

Disturbing reports yesterday of yet another unlawful eviction having taken place. In the earlier hours of Tuesday morning, members of the Avon and Somerset police force decided  to evict a group of young squatters on the grounds that they were ‘trespassing’. They stated that squatting had become illegal and that they now had the power to evict the building.

They didn’t. Section 6 of the criminal law act 1977 still applies; entrance by force or by threat of force to a persons residence is still a criminal offence. The inhabitants of the former building society in Bristol had committed no crime, they are were simply occupying an abandoned building and this is still completely lawful. Although the offence of squatting in residential buildings has been passed, it has not yet been enacted. This means the police have no power at all to evict/arrest under this new offence.


Three complaints have been made against the officers who were involved in this incident. We’ll keep you updated on how these complaints progress. The squatters resquatted the property shorty after the police left and to our knowledge they are still there. Respect!


For more info check the indymedia article:


http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/08/498995.html


HACKNEY RESISTANCE

The forces of darkness stalled by a peaceful demonstration outside the squatted property. On talking to the occupants we learnt that the building had been empty for 13 years and it had now been put back into use as a home for fourteen individuals. A hearty cooked breakfast was enjoyed by the 50 strong turn out and there was much celebration when the bailiffs decided not to go ahead with the eviction. This resistance was back in May, to our knowledge the property still remains squatted to this day.