The “new location” is a squat in a derelict office block on Preston Street and until the above message was posted its location was kept secret. I always thought the decision not to tell anyone the new location was odd but I have heard that it was intended as a half-way-house for the camp to re-group and store their stuff before moving on to a new camp. The old location was extremely exposed and as a result was often battered by high winds; I’m surprised the occupiers stayed as long as they did.
When I arrived there was a small group of people at the front of the building, and another slightly larger group at the back of the building. There were maybe thirty people in total. There were obviously people in the building but it is unclear how many. Police officers were stationed at all the entrances preventing people from entering or leaving the squat. There were about twenty officers milling around the area.
I asked a friendly looking guy (who I will refer to as E) in the assembled crowd what was going on. E said that three people, his friends, had been arrested “on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance” when they left the squat to try to talk to the police earlier. Occupy Liverpool’s official statement says that officers surrounded the building after the arrests which prompted the call for help. The three who were arrested were released without charge at 21:30.
In the UK it is legal for someone to squat in an unoccupied building as long as they enter it without causing damage, pay for any gas or electricity they use and don’t cause damage as a result of squatting. As long as the squatter is in the building it is illegal for someone else to use force, intimidation or harassment to enter the building and evict the squatters. A notice (known as a section 6 notice) was posted to that effect on the entrance of the building.
The attitude of the police towards the occupiers was disgraceful. People inside the building repeatedly asked to talk to the officer in charge but the police outside ignored them and pretended they couldn’t hear. One officer stood three feet away from someone at an open window said “I can’t hear you or see you property. Come to the door so we can talk” despite it being absolutely clear that anyone who left the building would be arrested. I standing on the other side of the street and could hear every word he was saying.
On several occasions the occupiers requested water and were told by the police “you can come out and get water”. People outside were told that they would be arrested if they passed anything, including water, to anyone inside. The first reason given by officers was that “hallucinogenics” could be passed in but this changed to “the building is a crime scene” when someone arrived with freshly purchased bottles of water with intact seals and a receipt. The officers could not say why the building was considered a crime scene or under what law they could arrest us for giving someone a bottle of water.
A loudhailer announced that legal advice had been sought which confirmed it was a breach of their rights for the police to deny water. Someone inside lowered string from one of the upper windows to hoist supplies up but an officer grabbed the string and pulled it down leading to chants of “Shame!” from the crowd. There was a moment of chaos as everyone surged forward and people began trying to throw bottles of water and food to the upper windows.
At this point the police began to retreat, I assumed, to re-group and make arrests but it later transpired, coincidentally, that they were ordered to leave.
I was standing by one of the police vans as they were leaving; an officer looked back at the building as he got in his van and said “knobheads”. I think this neatly sums up the attitude of the majority of officers there tonight. They acted like bullies and showed complete disregard for the people they are sworn to protect. If the police were there to execute a search warrant then why did they surround the building and harass its legal occupants before the warrant was granted? If they were looking for drugs when they were they preventing things from being passed in to the building?
Just after the police left E came over and said “That’s what happens when you go up against people who know the law”. True, but why should we have to go up against the police to get them to enforce the law as it is written and not as they see fit?
Update 23:26 08/01/12: I_Am_Jay_O_Doom has posted his account of todays events. http://jayodoom.blogspot.com/2012/01/report-from-attempted-eviction-of.html
Update 22:01 08/01/12: Occupy Liverpool have released a statement on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/OccupyLiverpool/posts/249279861812461
Update 21:30 08/01/12: The three occupiers who were arrested have been released without charge. https://twitter.com/#!/OccupyLiverpool/status/156125566574149633