Squatter’s Digest: That’s a wrap

Welcome to the second, and final edition of Squatters Digest (for 2018). You made it, faithful readers.

In a shock headline, squatting in the UK continues. Evictions still take place every month, but due to the huge number of empty properties in the country, people are still finding ways to self-house. These properties sit vacant while people struggle with rents, and with capitalism. Sometimes people die, and still these buildings remain empty. As the temperatures look to drop below zero in the next couple of days, and I sit here with a horrible cold, I am reminded that it is coming up 6 years since the death of Daniel Gauntlett, a man who froze to death outside a building in Kent, too afraid to enter for fear of being prosecuted for the crime of squatting in a residential building, the infamous Section 144 LASPO law brought in back in 2012 that so many people with an interest in squatting will know all too well.

On that morbid note, I do have some very regrettable news that will affect friends in both the UK and Europe, and further abroad. Jay, known to some as Moss, sadly passed away in Spain from health complications in the last couple of weeks. They squatted in Brighton, Bristol, London, up in Scotland, in buildings and on sites. In more recent years they spent a lot of time on the continent, in crusty squats and protest sites across Europe. Always busking and begging (and stealing) to get by, Jay/Moss was a truly loveable rogue. I’m sorry if anyone is hearing about this for the first time reading this. I hope in the coming weeks to meet up with others and be able to exchange stories and laugh at situations he often found himself in. Jay lived fast, and died young. Rest in peace.

In London, the Tidemill Garden saga continues. After being evicted from the garden, the campaign group made up of squatters and locals have continued to terrorise the local council, attending their meetings and holding demonstrations. The latest success was that the tree-felling company contracted by the housing association Peabody saw the effect the work was having on the local community, and pulled out of the deal. And after further pressure the council reluctantly dropped the contract with County Enforcement, the security company used to evict the garden and the bane of every squatter’s existence. There is of course many other nasty security companies to fill the gap, but every notch against County is massive.

Another victory recently has come from the “squat village” in east London, a multitude of buildings on one site, all inhabited by different crews. The owners of the property tried to bypass the normal procedures (presumably because having loads of money is supposed to allow you this liberty), by taking the squatters to the High Court with no good reason. They also tried to undermine the process and leave the occupiers at a disadvantage by serving them with the court papers with not enough time to gain legal advice. Or so they thought. Well, All Judges Are Bastards as they say (they do say that right?), but at least this one could see how much of an attempted fix-up this was and told them to go back and start again.

Also in south London, a crew has recently found themselves in possession of a church, confiscated from the corrupt clergy who once prayed there, and wasted no time in putting it to use, hosting benefit parties and gigs to raise money for various anarchist and activist causes. A different kind of congregation you might say, their robes black and spiky, the altar a stage, and the priests of old certainly can’t hold a candle to the alcohol consumption of the new church-goers. Keep your eyes peeled for more events there if you live in London, look for flyers at all your regular local anarchist spaces.

Outside of London there is good news too. In Amsterdam, often thought of (by me at least) as the pinnacle of European squatting, the De Mobiele Eenheid squat collective have managed to win a stay on the eviction of their social centre squat. The judge has ruled that they can stay until February next year. However, to their credit, the collective does not necessarily see this as a victory, not while the property speculators continue to leave properties empty, as they undoubtedly will after February. The collective is continuing to fight for the ongoing activity of their social centre, and intends to the fight the future eviction to the last. I am at this point reminded that I’m long overdue a trip to visit our continental neighbours.

Not all is going as well though in the other major hot-spot of European squatting. In Berlin, Rigaer94 was raided in the early hours a few weeks ago, with armed police storming the complex. Part of an ongoing attempt to shut down the squatted Kadterschmiede bar on the ground floor (most of the rest of the project is rented), this has been going on for years. From the   report though, the anarcha-feminist squat Leibig34 may also be under threat in the coming months. Across the Rhine-Main area of Germany there have been a series of arson attacks directed against squats and social centres over the last couple of months, the latest one on December 3rd at a housing project in a town near Frankfurt. The concerning thing to note is that the attacks have taken place exclusively at left/alternative/anarchist spaces. In an atmosphere of heightened tension, in which there is an undeniable rise in right-wing thought, and action, these attacks demand that we give thought to ways in which to support each other practically, and be vigilant against further repression by reactionary or state forces.

Back in the UK there’s a new, and very relevant, project on the scene! This one is for the “squatters, renters, travellers, occupiers, everyone”. A new collective, Violence Of Evictions, is looking to collate information and evidence of violent and/or illegal evictions. The purpose of this will be “to record and highlight the violence of evictions; to shed light on violent perpetrators, be they individuals or systemic powers and to held them to account. All evictions are inherently violent.” I’m really glad that the people behind this have started it up, as it’s something that we so often complain about, but so often feel powerless to challenge. I know a lot of people who would love to see some landlords and bailiffs get their comeuppance, and in light of the ongoing attacks across the globe against alternative spaces, we need to start supporting these kinds of initiatives to work together more effectively and fight back. Be sure to get in touch with them at violenceofevictions(at)gmail.com as they’ve asked for people to get involved.

Elsewhere, in Manchester there are now squatting workshops taking place 2 to 3 times per month. You can find them at Squat Life on the terrible facebook. The workshops are to introduce people to squatting law, to meet other people to squat with, and for the squatting community to get together and share experiences. Sounds pretty good to me. Check their page for the dates, and the location, as they change it up a bit.

Squat Life workshops are very much in a similar vein to the Practical Squatters Evenings that have taken place in London for a very long time, but as has been done in the past, it seems there is a bit of a change coming. The workshops have taken place weekly across 2 different venues, and at times have been very successful in getting people together to put roofs over their heads. However more recently this has proved less effective, so new formats are being looked at. People looking to squat are encouraged to visit the Advisory Service for Squatters and leave a note, and hopefully from there can be put in touch with others and be helped in the quickest time possible.

Well, thanks for sticking it out, I guess that’s just about a wrap. One last thing though, this time of year it’s customary to un-wrap things. I’m not particularly fond of christmas, but who doesn’t like to open a present or two? So this is my present to anyone who has bothered to read this far. If you, or someone you know need, want, or desire, a copy of the Squatters’ Handbook, the guide put out by the Advisory Service for Squatters that covers the law and practical advice for the squatting in the UK (actually just England and Wales), then send an email to squattersdigest(at)riseup.net with your address (don’t worry about a name, or just make one up, I’m not collecting data) and I’ll send one out to you, completely free including the postage.

Remember to check radar.squat.net for squatting-related events taking place wherever you live, and if you don’t see anything on there get in touch with the people organising events to start using the service. As far as anarchist and squat organising goes, we could do so much more than just resorting to facebook all the time. Or at least if using facebook, make sure it’s alongside friendly platforms like radar.

That’s me out for this year. I’ve got a few things lined up for next year to talk about, alongside the usual round-up of news from the squat world in London and beyond. Please get in touch at squattersdigest(at)riseup.net if you have any comments. Until then.