London: Squatters digest- low tide. Next comes the flood

Welcome to the Squatter’s Digest, a new column for Freedom News, highlighting the ongoings of the squat scene in London and beyond, along with providing opinions on the politics of said goings-on. Quality and coherence are not guaranteed.

The 29th of October saw 150 high-court bailiffs and police descend upon the Tidemill Community Garden in Deptford, London, at 6am, pulling people from their tents, dragging them out of tree-houses, and laying waste to the entire occupation. Occupiers climbed the trees and refused to vacate, while outside fights broke out between the supporters and bailiffs (County Enforcement, well-known to squatters, see Corporate Watch’s latest article on them), who of course were protected by members of the Metropolitan Police force. At some point in the afternoon the last squatter was removed from the trees and the garden was all but lost. But this didn’t stop the people outside from trying for one last push to regain entry to the site. Rushing for the fences, people were thrown to the ground and detained by bailiffs and police, but also linked arms and refused to allow their fellow protestors to be taken to the arrest vans, defiant to the last. [Read More]

London: The Battle for Deptford and Beyond

In Deptford in south east London, local campaigners have occupied a 20-year old community garden to prevent it from being boarded up and razed to the ground by Lewisham Council and the housing association, Peabody. They are also highlighting the absurdity of proposals to demolish 16 structurally sound council flats next door to build new social housing.

What’s happening in Deptford reflects two pressing concerns in the capital today. The first is the prioritising of house-building projects over pressing environmental concerns. The second is the destruction of social housing to create new developments that consist of three elements: housing for private sale, shared ownership deals that are fraught with problems, and new social housing that’s smaller, more expensive and offering tenants less security than what is being destroyed.

The proposed destruction is part of a plan to build new housing not only on the site of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and Reginald House flats, but also on the site of the old Tidemill Primary School, which closed in 2012. Peabody intends to build 209 units of new housing on the site, of which 51 will be for private sale, with 41 for shared ownership, and 117 at what is described as “equivalent to social rent”, although that is untrue. The rents on the latter will fall under London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Affordable Rent, which is around 63% higher than existing council rents in Lewisham.
[Read More]

UK: The edge of precarity. Squatting in England and emergency crisis planning

In recent decades squatting has been under near constant assault from a variety of ruling class actors. In 2012 the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat government banned squatting in residential properties for the purposes of living. Councils, Conservative and Labour alike, treat squatters as a public health issues and pressure property owners to fast track evictions. The (still) rising property market in London and other major cities has incentivised owners to use underhand legal techniques and increasingly violent tactics to rid their properties of squatters in order to make a quick sale or proceed with redevelopment works.

In spite of this, squatting continues. A Houses of Parliament report on evicting squatters estimated there to be around 20,000 squatters at any one time in the UK. This is certain to be a conservative estimate considering the tens of thousands of hidden homeless and the tendency among squatters to float between squatting and other forms of precarious housing arrangements such as guardianships, pubwatching and renting.

Squatting goes on, but in a much diminished form. Nearly all capacity for establishing any kind of long term infrastructure has been destroyed. In the past, semi permanent spaces have been places for squatters to organise, relax, recuperate and party. More than most, squatters depend on solidarity and mutual aid to survive. In Amsterdam squats can last for years. Joe’s Garage, for example, is a social centre near the centre of Amsterdam which has been squatted for 12 years and hosts gigs, talks and people’s kitchens. Social centres and creative spaces act as community hubs that people incorporate into their everyday lives and routines and provide points of stability that can be relied on.

When evicted squatters move to nearby squats to rest and make plan to rehouse themselves, vans are found to move possessions, eviction resistances are put together initially through networks of friends. The demise of squat infrastructure has made it harder to get these things done. It is difficult to keep track of your mates if they move every few weeks. It’s even harder if your time and energy is taken up with moving yourself and your crew.

Sudden court dates, unexpected illegal evictions and the like have inculcated a heightened capacity for emergency crisis planning, at least in the London squat scene where I have experience. Less time for social events and collective actions has meant squatters tend to see the most of each other in stressful situations like evictions, or raves. More often than not squatters just end up seeing less of each other, a diminishing of the social network they rely on to survive.

There have been attempts to combat this trend. Last year an old bank on Deptford High Street was squatted and hosted regular collective meals and other open events such as info nights. This was encouraging and saw frank articulations of politics and lived experiences between squatters and non squatters. The bank squat lasted a couple of months and the crew kept up events in a new building. Inevitably, however, some people not clued into the squatters social circle were left behind in the move, either because they did not know where the new building was or did not have the means to easily get there.

Squatting will continue as long as the housing crisis continues, as long as people are forced to the margins of society. The reorientation away from crisis planning and towards long term organisation, towards new infrastructure, will take time and will require different strategies and efforts. It is time for the left to end its sneering dismissal of the squatter movement – to stop instrumentalising squatters whenever they need them for a political action or occupation only to forget about them when they are no longer needed. Squatting is part of a spectrum of precarious housing and living that needs to be contested and should be more integrated into struggles for council housing, direct actions against estate agents and organising among couriers and other ‘gig economy’ industries.

https://freedomnews.org.uk/the-edge-of-precarity-squatting-in-england-and-emergency-crisis-planning/

Groups in London: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/city/london
Events in London: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/city/London

Groups in UK: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/GB
Events in UK: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/GB

Deptford (South-East London): Communique from the Bank of No Money

Bank_of_no_money_Deptford_South_East_LondonWe are rats running rabid through the stinking guts of London …

Sick of the fractured ‘scene’ of squatters in London, sick of faux-punk venues and the fashionable veneer of rebellion, sick of the apathy and passivity, sick of housing where everyone is locked in their own rooms, their own lives, their existence atomised, stinking of fried chicken and choking on the bones of what once was, we came together to act …

We are a collective of those in active rebellion.

Warsaw. Barcelona. Roma. Thessaloniki. London. All over we meet in joint attack.

We organised on the beaches of London for the TRESPASS gig – selling propaganda to fashion punx and tourists about the trial of the Warsaw 3, dropping banners and smoke flares whilst the crowd rioted amongst itself, spitting in our faces and rejecting all politics.

We put on infonights, skyping with comrades from across Europe, and people came and listened, complained that there was nothing organised in London, that everything was too fluid, too temporary, that nothing ever happened, and we laughed to hide the tragedy of their blindness to their own domestication.

‘You can’t win’, they said, and we sneered, knowing our victory is in the struggle itself.

We meet in the streets outside squats under threat of eviction in Bethnal Green, Brixton, Aldwych, to jeer at bailiffs covered in paint, or see doors battered in, or taunt the cops and accuse them of murder by association. Though we called out for accomplices, few came, but enough remained to support each other and fight. [Read More]