UK: Demonstrations in support of squatting

As the move towards the criminalisation of squatting continues in the UK with the House of Lords waving through the legislation, there have been demonstrations in support of squatting and autonomous spaces.

See below for reports from Brighton (today) and Bristol (yesterday).

Brighton today –

In response to the ban on squatting being passed in the House of Lords on Tuesday, Squatters and their supporters took a meandering march through Brighton and Hove today.

At 2pm, around a hundred squatters and supporters gathered at Victoria Square Gardens (the site of the now evicted Occupy Brighton camp) in the centre of town. A soundsystem blasted out Gabba and the squatters started to march, with nary a copper in sight.

The first target was Brighton town hall, which was briefly picketed. Squatters marched on to the seafront, chanting “Whatever they say, Squatting will stay!” The march quickly picked up a large escort of coppers as it marched along the seafront towards Hove. Police were trying to force people out of the road they were blocking, on to the pavement. One particularly agressive uniformed thug hit a squatter in the chest with his re-enforced glove for the slightly dubious crime of walking too fast. For a while things were very tense, and it seemed like things were gonna kick off, but then the coppers backed off and allowed the march to continue, albeit in a mobile kettle.

After marching along the seafront for half an hour or so, the marchers surprised the cops by cutting through a residental street to blockade Western Road, Brighton’s main shopping thoroughfare, then turned back on themselves to march along Western Road towards Churchill Square mall and the centre of town. Around halfway down, the mobile kettle that had escorted the march since the seafront suddenly dissolved, the police decamping back into their vans, which promptly drove away, leaving the march totally free and starting the hilarious chant “We don’t need no cops, all we need are squats!”

Squatters marched past Churchill Square, down North Street (another main shooping street) and then along London road and down to the level without incident, deciding it was time for a party. However, it was not to be. Around 5 minutes after the squatters arrived, the mysterious vanishing police escort returned. 9 vans of riot police, a cctv van and a FIT team turned up to crash the party, provoking a brief confrontation before squatters decamped to the beach to continue the party.

Bristol yesterday –

In response to the Government’s moves to make criminal squatting in residential properties people gathered in Bristol on Friday to protest against the passing of the Legal Aid Bill. Around 30 to 40 protesters meet outside Metropolis on Stokes Croft (another empty property, which if the Government has it’s ways, would be left to rot in the interests of property speculators). Comrades from The Red & Black Umbrella in Cardiff even came over to Bristol to join the protest!

At 2:30PM people set off down the street, taking the road and displaying a banner which read: “Whatever They Say, Squatting Will Stay!”

We successfully blockaded the road for the entire protest, moving down Stokes Croft, past BRI, down Park Street, through Broadmead and after a quick scuffle with security in Cabot Circus ended up in Castle Park where we ended the day in the sun. The Police paid little to no attention to the procession though we were accompanied by two PSCOs the whole time (who’s attempts to keep people from blocking the road, failed miserably).

Several people expressed their solidarity either through honking their horns or joining the demonstration. We know that this demonstration won’t be enough to reverse the criminalisation of squatting that has already been put into motion. We need to build a strong movement to combat their attempts to make illegal our way of life. We need to create strong solidarity networks, responding to evictions and helping fellow squatters out with potential court cases and fines and possible imprisonment!

One thing that is important is that we do not allow the criminalisation of squatting to be the end of the squatting movement in Bristol (or the UK)! We need to take cues from our comrades in Europe and elsewhere around the world where squatting is already a criminal offence. We need to keep squatting, keeping resisting and keep building our movement despite what the law might say.

There will be another demonstration two weeks from now, on Saturday 14th April. Assemble outside Metropolis, Stokes Croft at 1PM! Bring banners, placards, megaphones, sound systems & anger! Spread the word!