A massive bailiff operation backed by police ended the occupation of a landmark building in Bristol yesterday after two months of operation.
The former Randstad office on Gloucester Road was raided after the Pigeonshit Collective dropped a large public banner and announced the space was to be used as a mutual aid centre, to help people left in difficulties by the long series of Covid crises and lockdowns.
Sixteen riot vans disgorged dozens of police at the eviction, which saw large crowds of locals turn out in support of the project, though they were ultimately unable to turn the bailiffs away as the building was secured for the owners, who had left it to rot for the previous seven years.
Also notable as part of the day’s events was the presence of former Bristol UKIP chairman Steve Wood. The disgraced far-right politician was acting as lead bailiff for eviction firm Able Investigations.
Liam, who was there on the day, reported:
“It took them at least eight hours because of the bold stand taken by members of the Pigeonshit Collective to keep the space that they had been building. The court hearing for this eviction happened earlier than had been scheduled and happened without any of the defendants present as a result.
“I reckon there were at least 80 cops and high court bailiffs out to do the dirt. I’d say 100 of us joined in solidarity, pretty consistently for the whole day. It felt really powerful to have that many of us there. There were three arrests that will hopefully be easily fought, but may well need further solidarity if they come to court. This was a space that was providing homes to homeless folks during a pandemic. The property developers took part in the eviction, assaulting members of the public, so they can start building luxury flats there.
“It felt like the pigs knew they were playing with a powder keg today, and as much as charging horses and kettling are fully out of line, they were on a main road and knew that things could get way worse for them, very quickly. And that’s because of the resistance. May it be one of many!”
Despite a series of largely discredited government assurances that people wouldn’t be turfed out of accommodation in the middle of a pandemic, evictions of squats have been faster than ever over the last year as landlords and bored bailiffs focused on unprotected targets, and have frequently featured massive overkill or serious violence.
Pigeonshit says that in this case the eviction was even faster than usual, to the point of being questionable:
The court papers that we received via email stated that the hearing should have taken place at 3.40pm. However, after calling the court multiple times before this we were told that it had been brought forward to 3pm, meaning it went ahead without us. A representative of ours, speaking on the phone to the court to try and figure out why this had happened, was hung up on once it hit 4pm (closing time of the court). This meant that we could not get any information on the hearing and this perfectly shows the state working against the rights of squatters and anyone who doesn’t own property.
The owner of the building wants to build new apartments, which will not be affordable to anyone. It will add to the further gentrification of Gloucester Road and no one should not accept this. However this isn’t the end of PigeonshitCollective. We are not a building, and don’t expect us to sit quietly.
Pic: Liam Barrington Bush