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]

London: Homeless Festival Was a Stark Reminder of How Bad Things Have Got

Immersed in the fun of Streets Fest, you could have been excused for forgetting, just for a day, how vast a crisis homelessness in Britain has become.

Unless, of course, your first sight after walking out of Finsbury Park tube station – towards the health and wellbeing festival for homeless and vulnerably housed people – was a rough sleeper, apparently lifeless and surrounded by paramedics, as mine was this Monday morning.

It was a brutal sign of the times and a stark reminder of why charities are tasked with picking up where those with the power to change the fate of thousands have fallen down. And it is happening in a country where more than 8,000 people are forced to sleep rough on any one night, and at least 300,000 face homelessness. This is an era in which grassroots organisations, such as Streets Kitchen, find themselves having to host a special event – by some cruel irony, in one of the nation’s homelessness hotspots – to offer basic services to vulnerable people. It seems we have reached peak austerity Britain.
[Read More]

London: Queens in Furs guided tour of Brixton

In the 1970s Britain was saturated in political activity right across the board. Not just in the Labour movement, trade unions and the Left but also the new social movements were particularly active in challenging the oppressive established order especially the black, women’s and gay liberation movements. The environmental, countercultural, squatters’ and claimants’ organisations were also fully engaged in defending people against poverty, homelessness, the destruction of the environment and experimenting with ‘alternative’ lifestyles. Throughout this period the anti-apartheid movement, the Anti-Nazi League and Troops out of Ireland challenged the racist regime in South Africa, the growing menace of racism and fascism and the continuing military occupation of Northern Ireland. In the early 70s there were still lively anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. Much of this ‘crucible’ of radical activity provided the ingredients for how politics were practised locally in Brixton.
[Read More]

London: Streets Fest on Monday!

CALL OUT TO ALL SQUATTERS / HOMELESS / TRAVELLERS
All Day Free BBQ / Hairdressers / Doctors / Vets / Showers / Opticians / Housing, Squatting, Boat Advice / Free Clothes /

#STREETSFEST #STREETSKITCHEN #FINSBURYPARK #NFAAF

Bringing together 50+ groups and services
Monday 10th September – Finsbury Park (2pm – 8pm)

[Read More]

London: Check out that A.S.S.

Squatters beware – there have been multiple cases in the last few weeks of people being arrested for burglary when squatting a place. With that in mind the Advisory Service for Squatters (A.S.S.) would like to remind people a few things to keep them safe if faced with arrest:

  1. No comment – You might be able to explain your situation to the police, but in 99% of cases what you say to them will not get you out of the cells any faster, and can be used to incriminate you or any other people arrested. If you go to court it can all be used against you, especially if you are caught fibbing to the rozzers. Say NO COMMENT to any questions the police ask you and keep you and your crew safe.
  2. Have a bail address – someone who doesn’t mind telling the police that you stay with them sometimes and that you can possibly stay with for a bit if the police do put any bail conditions on you. You don’t want to give them an excuse to keep you in prison.
  3. Know a legal firm to call – don’t in any circumstances take the duty solicitor provided by the police. Remember the name of one of the solicitor firms on the bust card, available at all good anarchist soical centres and refuse t have an interview until your lawyers are called.

Good luck out there! Feed the pigeons!

From Squatters of London Action Paper Issue 9 (pdf) – back issues here

NFA Antifascists

London: Report back from TAA May

Temporary Autonomous Arts was in May determined to return to its roots as a squatted exhibition. A decrepit long term empty in Bow was transformed into a blank canvas by the TAA mob, who then were boosted after 24 hours notice after a rapid-response possession order requested them to attend High Court in Birmingham. Undeterred, a second building was snatched in North Woolwich and repurposed against the clock. The TAA opened as planned on the Wednesday to a splatter of spoken word,followed up by a blinding cabaret gig featuring public urination, wild drag anarchy from Jizmik Hunt and the body-positive monarchy-bashing of Glittasphxia.

Saturday things started turning sour, with a day of escalating violence and conflict between the squatters and locals over accusations of the graffing of a pie’n’mash shop and breakins by kids into thee building culminating with 20 roided-up cops turning up to face-off against the 60 or so mob holding the courtyard. The gigs were
cut short after the cops broke out the Criminal Justice Act and threatened to seize the sound system. Concerned for the safety of the artworks, equipment and liberty of the guests, the TAA crew elected to keep the music off and let the night deflate like a wet fart in a wet paper bag. Opinions are divided, with some people furious
that another building in London has been burnt for the sake of a “anarchohipster lollapallooza”, and others
arguing that the TAA crew made a tactical decision in a tight spot.

From Squatters of London Action Paper Issue 9 (pdf) – back issues here

NFA Antifascists

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London: Kurdistan Place

Kurdish youth and supporters, some linked to Plan C, have occupied a vacant building near Edgware Road.

Kurdistan Place was occupied by friends of Anna Campbell last week in solidarity with the Kurdish Freedom Movement. In a statement, the occupiers said:

We want this space to enable learning about Kurdish culture and Kurdish liberation’s emancipatory politics. We also want this space to enable solidarity and anti-capitalist organising. Anna was involved with a similar project in 2012 called Palestine Place, an occupation of a building in Chancery Lane, which was set up to highlight the need for solidarity, support and knowledge about the occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the ongoing siege of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. We want to use this space as a means to promote radical social change and revolution.

[Read More]

London: Radical Residency

Welcome to the Radical Residency! This is a space created by students, artists, radicals, unwaged and waged workers and activists. Radical Residency was set up by poc, queer and radical peeps who scrawl their joy and their rage upon the walls. We put on workshops and events that challenge traditional education and political institutions. We celebrate through solidarity, music, art and learning. We nurture self-development and self-awareness, being reflective and critical of all that we know and that we strive towards. Drop your binaries and your prejudices at the door and actively engage through radical listening and participation.

On Friday 9th March we are having our hearing at 3:30pm at the County Court at The Mayors and City of London Court Guildhall Buildings, Basinghall Street, London EC2V 5AR. We are calling for support and solidarity. Share with your comrades and help us remind the trustees of the British Museum who the real thieves are.

Below is our manifesto:
[Read More]

London: Solidarity space

Since temperatures are so low and homelessness is still a big issue, some people came to an idea of opening a safe space shelter available to everyone! [Squatted March1, still there March6]

So the building is at 204 Great Portland Street, entrance from 56 Bolsover Road (Sophia House). At the moment there’s some issues with electricity, however there is possibility to brew hot drinks and despite lack of heating at the moment it is still warmer & dryer than out on the street
[Read More]

UK: The social centres roundup

For all its small size and general impoverishment the libertarian socialist movement actually runs a surprisingly large amount of real estate around Britain, all on non-hierarchical lines, by and for the people of the cities and towns we’re in. Housing co-ops, bookshops, bike collectives, archives, distros, printers and the like are all part of the collective mix. Below, Freedom News briefly rounds up some goings-on at 15 radical social centres and spaces over the last few months. [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