Winter’s gone. Spring’s almost up. The Autonomous Shelter Network is still here.
The question remains, for how long?
Having made it through Christmas, Ramadan, and Easter the answer seems clearer for the Autonomous Winter Shelter in Shadwell. In a blend of unprecedented yet signature authoritarianism, the Metropolitan Police have circumvented the courts.
On the 30th of April they posted a letter to the Shelter filled with tedious claims of the premises not being protected under Section 144 of the LASPO. The vagueness of their legal reasoning or lack thereof, matched only by the clarity of their ultimatum.
“If you do not vacate the building within twenty one (21) days of the date of this letter then the Metropolitan Police Service will take further action and you may be subject to arrest”
That’s cop for get the fuck out in three weeks or we WILL make an example of you.
In a decaying empire, in which UN Human Rights Chiefs characterise the government’s most recent legislative power grabs as “deeply troubling” and in context of the police “especially worrying” it’s not surprising to see courts being cut out of the equation.
The kingdom of austerity is a place where anything can wind up on the chopping block; free speech, freedom of association, the right to protest, even the pretence of due process, but that’s just in the last week. The legal argument is void, even in this dystopia it is not an offence to squat commercial or mixed-use properties. Our intention is to take this to court and in front of a judge as we’ve always done.
In seven months we’ve built a resilient community resource and social centre.
Supported by too many groups to name, the Shelter has from its start been host to community dinners, practical workshops, documentary screenings, and the sharing of our stories.
We’ve housed, clothed, and fed each other through the harshest points of winter, opened our doors to countless vulnerable people, established satellite buildings throughout Tower Hamlets, and picked up the slack where councils fall short by rehousing the Shadwell Fire Survivors ourselves. Our capacities as a network are not unlimited however and we need your support now more than we ever have.
Marginalisation is just not an option.
We’ve two weeks on the clock, in that time we need legally minded volunteers to support those already assisting us in challenging the police on their overreach, we need people to come and share good spirits with those living here, to help vulnerable people who will need your support in packing up their lives on short notice in order to avoid police violence.
We need you to share your solidarity and take a stand with the Autonomous Shelter Network.
To stand against a police force emboldened by an increasingly right wing politics.
To stand against a cost of living crisis we didn’t create but are all being punished for.
To reject this brazen scam and show the bootlicking cartel what community defence looks like.