Sydney: Squatters threatened with eviction

Yesterday (26 sept. 2000), squatters and their supporters joined with workers and members of the CFMEU Construction and Energy Union to successfully picket outside the squats – preventing Council tradespeople from smashing in and boarding the places up.

South Sydney Council – which owns the four squatted buildings – took the squatters to court, claiming that the squats wre ‘life threatening fire hazards’ and the squatters were to leave immediately.

The Council won in court on two of the buildings, and the squatters were to leave by 12 noon Monday 25/9/00. However, Council were confronted by a large group of supporters and were forced to leave for the day.

On the Monday night (25 sept. 2000), past midnight, squatters were harassed by security guards and Olympic police, who attempted to kick the doors down. Squatters were pushed, searched and threatened with arrest for break and enter. Interestingly, squatters were also questioned in relation to the housing of illegal immigrants. Squatters questioned the police behaviour, and alerted police to a previous commitment to ‘No Raids’. No arrests were made.

Tuesday morning (26 sept. 2000) Council returned with tradespeople to ‘secure the buildings’. But early rising squatters were already on the barricades, blocking entry. The CFMEU Union organiser quickly arrived on the scene and spoke with workers about why they should not continue the work this morning. Workers were sympathetic and left by 9am. Squatters were informed that Council would not be resuming work that day.

At 3pm, with less than an hours notice, Council arrived backed up by a van load of police. However, approxmately 70 supporters had quickly come down to the squats, including Union members from nearby buildings sites, and two Para-0lympian athletes.

After an hour of negotiations, with the squats guarded by the many and broad supporters with linked arms, the squatters won another day.

The Broadway squats are the first squats in some time to be open about their autonmous occupation. Due to the criminal trespass laws which apply in Australia, squatters are usually quiet and unassuming and quickly evicted once discovered. Broadway squatters have mobilised broad community support from both homeless and housing organisations, unions, and many members of the community with a social conscience. A ‘re-cuisine machine’ dumpster cafe has opened up in one of the squats, as Broadway squatters invite people to get involved.

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