No, no, not that fight to Remain. You’re here for the squatting right?
Well if you read last month’s entry (this is something of a journal I guess, rather than journalism), then you’ll be pleased to know that I write to you from the comfort of my squat, the same one as before. With 30 fellow squatters outside the barricaded front door, serving breakfast, tea and coffee, and a free shop to the public, the resistance to our eviction was handled with ease. So, here I remain.
Further resistance to the bailiffs was seen within a few days time in London, this time in the south, in Deptford. Expecting a somewhat firmer attempt from the bailiffs, people gathered from 7 in the morning to barricade (although some were still up from doing this the night before) and to protect the entrance-way. High court bailiffs arrived, and it seemed like it was on. However, despite the posturing of the initial few enforcers, and the entrance of another half-dozen reinforcements, the bailiffs had no success in removing the squatters. With the squatters being an integral part of local campaigns such as the oft-mentioned Tidemill Garden, scores of local residents and campaigners came down to show their displeasure at the attempt, and the police and bailiffs caved to the pressure and retreated.
The round-up of squatting news in the rest of the world seems a bit bleaker, but then it usually seems to, as we tend to hear less of the small victories, and more of the big news like evictions. If anyone reading this does know of local resistances in other countries feel free to write in, I’d love to include little snippets of success around the world, wherever they may be. That said, here’s what’s been going on.
An illegal eviction took place in Utrecht in the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago. The owner, who has no immediate use for the buildings as his development proposals have been shot down by neighbours, was unable to gain access to the building, but employed the ever-happy-to-help police to smash the windows and chuck the squatters out on the street. In fact a similar event took place just two days ago in south London, in a building notorious for being illegally evicted since it was first squatted some 5 years ago. It of course becomes very hard to argue the point once the police have made up their mind that they will assist the illegal eviction.
Also in the Netherlands, the Krakelingenweg squat was evicted a couple of days prior, resulting in 12 people being arrested during the resistance. The Karakelingen was one of a spat of buildings occupied in Zeist over the last 6 months, including a mansion that was resquatted after being evicted. It seems that it may still be occupied so hopefully the arrestees had somewhere to go back to after they were released from the police cells. Freiburg in Germany saw a couple of squats evicted this month, Mozart3 and Klara17. The squatters organised for demonstrations after the evictions against the city and its inadequate housing policies. And in Montreuil, Paris, the squat l’Echarde was evicted, with the occupiers again organising a demonstration against the repression in the evening of the same day.
Across the world squatting laws are different, in some places it is illegal, and in others it is only illegal under certain circumstances. And in the case of some countries people simply live on the communal land, dubbed squatters by the state, but it is simply the only option they have. In the UK as I’m sure some of you will know, the occupation of a residential building for living in is a crime, under what we call Section 144. However it is still legal to squat in commerical buildings. What happens then is there is a court case to determine if the claimant does in fact have the right to the building (sometimes they don’t, and that’s where the Advisory Service for Squatters can help). What I want to talk about is the process after possession has been granted. Bailiffs are used to enforce possession orders by the court, and in times gone by County Court bailiffs (not to be confused with County Enforcement, who are a private firm) would deliver a notice to let squatters know when they needed to move out by. Whether people chose to or not was, and is, up to them. More recently (over the last 6 years) there has been a shift to go for High Court Enforcement Officers immediately. This has meant that private firms are contracted by the courts (unlike County Court who are more like civil servants) to carry out the evictions. They are not required to give any notice, and most squatters can testify to have been woken up at 6 in the morning by a bunch of thugs smashing down the door and throwing their belongings into the street. It may seem ridiculously privileged to claim that the process is unfair, especially to those coming from places where even the most basic legal protections simply do not exist, so I won’t make that claim. But what I will say is that if we have a chance to challenge it, we should.
And that is what is happening right now in fact. A Consultation is taking place in the UK right now, to attempt to find parity in the methods that different types of bailiffs use to enforce possession. This could mean that whoever is used to carry out the eviction, they would be bound by the same regulations, and people could feel a little safer about trying to sort out their living situation in the lead up to eviction. This could of course lead to the opposite effect, in which no bailiff is required to give any notice, and leave squatters in a worse situation. With this in mind, the Advisory Service for Squatters is working on a response to the consultation. Currently they are gathering as much evidence as possible of the disproportionate violence used by (predominately) High Court Enforcement Officers, to demonstrate the stress and trauma put upon people by the current lack of regulation around when and how HCEOs can enforce possession orders. So if you have any evidence of dodgy bailiffs doing things they shouldn’t, or just being dicks in general, do get in touch with the A.S.S. on advice(at)squatter.org.uk. Footage would be great I’m sure, but I think they would appreciate testimonies as well, so get out all your best stories of being beaten up!
On a lighter note I recently attended a talk called Queer(er) Squatting as part of LGBT History Month, at a National Trust building called Sutton House in London. It was interesting to hear about the radical queer movements and how they were very much an integral part of the squatting movement, from the 70s through to today. I remember some of the House of Brag events in the last 5-7 years, but it was interesting also to hear the stories of the Rebel Dykes in Brixton in the 80s, among other radical queer collectives that used squatting to reclaim public space in a way that made it accessible for outsiders.
A member of the queer squatting community was our friend Anna Campbell. She was killed in Afrin by Turkish military a year ago, fighting for freedom alongside the YPJ Kurdish forces.
Known to us as Daisy, she squatted in London, Bristol and Brighton, and was well-known and loved. Friends of hers have collated stories of and about her, and dealing with the grief of losing her, and of fellow revolutionary Haukar Hilmarsson, as a tribute to their ultimate sacrifices. The book has just been released and is called Immortal: Mourning, Martyrs, and Murals.
Anna was an anarchist, and I’d like to finish up by noting another action that took place lately, that does not have to do with squatting, but would feel remiss as an anarchist writing about “the fight to remain” to not cover. Last month members of the Anti-Raids Network, in solidarity with the End Deportations and World Without Borders campaigns, shut down Eaton House, an Immigration Enforcement reporting centre, ensuring that the vans that are used to raid homes and workplaces and take people to detention centres, could not go out that day, and the building was closed for the day, preventing anyone reporting from being snatched and taken away. So as we fight to not be pulled from our squats, so people fight everyday to not be pulled from their lives, to have their worlds upended by the arbitrary borders of the nation state. Keep resisting, whether it is evictions from your homes, or deportations from your place of living.
If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover (I’m sure I miss loads of good squatting coverage around the globe) please get in touch at squattersdigest(at)riseup.net.