Yesterday squatters occupied a former Royal Mint building in Tower Hill in protest against homelessness, empty buildings and the ongoing criminalisation of squatting.
The building on Royal Mint Court was converted into offices in 1980, when the Royal Mint completed its move to Llantrisant in Wales. At its height, the building symbolised the monetary power of the City of London and, as its occupiers point out, has become to represent the vast inequality it once had a part in producing.
The autonomous group of squatters come from different backgrounds and past projects but definitely agree on one thing: that stopping homelessness means abolishing the capitalist system. By occupying, they want to communicate the contradiction between the Royal Mint and what it represents and the lives of ordinary people. Wealth is wealth because it excludes the majority of us.
The squatters want to use the space to organise against homelessness and the power of the rich. Banners and posters there range from anti-gentrification campaigns, such as the former Aylesbury council-estate occupation, evictions and Section 144 – the 2012 criminalisation of residential squatting.
Despite housing many homeless people during this “crisis”, squatting contradicts the nonsense of private property and has therefore suffered continuous attempts to legislate it away – or stamp it out with force. From Tory Grant Shapps to the Labour council in Tower Hamlets, the state response is violent and quickening in pace. Security companies, such as Gallowglass, or such upmarket bailiffs as County Enforcement Group and Evict UK have become the default response from owners and local authorities alike.
Squatting is no solution to the “housing crisis” but reveals the myth of this crisis – that there are too few buildings for all of us – and shows its reality as purposeful class warfare. The Royal Mint squatters know this as well as anyone. Since the beginning of their occupation, private security guards have been employed to monitor and intimidate. Despite the repression, the building is secure and its new occupants are optimistic about its future. One thing is for sure: squatting has stayed despite what the politicians said in 2012 – and is still causing havoc for the wealthy elite.