The Police, Squat Evictions and Housing Precarity

12 May

A little while ago, I wrote a piece about squatting and the abuse that bailiffs and police commit against squatters which is now on the New Left Project. Please take a read of it here and maybe even ‘like’ it on facebook and share on twitter :)

I wrote the piece because I was angry at all the shit that my friends would tell me that they experienced, on a regular basis, as they attempted to house themselves – bailiffs stealing their possessions as they evicted them, owners sending round heavies, police breaking in through the roof. I wanted to show how this is one aspect of the violence that is the housing crisis. 

Since writing this article, there’s been another illegal squat eviction of Hampstead police station by the police, and an attempted illegal eviction by the police of squatters in the Hackney police station – this time, squatters managed to sneak back in when the coppers tried to get them out. Then, a bunch of builders turned up at one attempted squat eviction and, with police present, reversed into one of the squatters before driving off. The police ‘pursued’ them but didn’t catch them, and then refused to investigate the case. 

Awesome things – articles and organising

7 Apr

Again, a slightly random collection of things that I don’t think got enough retweets, that I want to share again cos they give me hope!

Plan C’s March newsletter shows tonnes of cool events happening all across the country. I’m particularly interested in one London project ‘The Care Forum – an experimental space for theory, organising, and action around reproduction and care’. There are lots of inspiring campaigns and support groups taking action on housing, welfare, the racist border regime, mental health and other issues. Hopefully the Care Forum can provide space for people to make links, share information and ideas and also to think about how we can create and sustain infrastructures of care and reproduction – People’s Kitchens being one small thing, but vital, particularly in response to the BNP’s food bank efforts. As we struggle to afford food and keep roofs over our heads, and the enormous mental toll this takes, we urgently need to organise and reflect on collective projects for our well-being.

 

The first International Self-Organised Antifascist Martial Arts tournament is happening in Thessaloniki, Greece on 7-8 June! I love the writing down the right hand side of the blog about antifascist boxing gyms in Greece where the concept of competition or winners and losers is rejected. It’s like this great blog on Italian antifascist and queer squatted boxing gyms. London’s got some too, I know of one that’s been going for a year now. I’m well into radical sports practices.

 

This is less of an ‘awesome thing’ but important. Chris Grayling’s book (and underwear, and other things that could previously be sent in parcels) ban for prisoners has got a lot of deserved media attention. In this article, a Telegraph journalist looks at the appalling state of prison libraries. An interesting post by Haven distribution books gives a little more context to the book ban – even before the changes brought into English and Welsh prisons in November last year Haven distribution were banned from a few prisons, and where they can send them in, some titles have been rejected.

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I attended a homelessness training with the brilliant Advisory Service for Squatters yesterday. It was very depressing hearing the labyrinthine application process that homeless people are subjected to – every aspect of their life, nationality, etc. scrutinised, and how at the end of all this, now they can be shafted into the private sector. It was sickening hearing how local authorities spend thousands of pounds on court cases to deny people quality, secure housing that everyone deserves. For me, the workshop reminded me that despite the good work of the housing lawyers who ran the workshop – we’re not really getting anywhere using the law and that collective action is how we’ll secure ourselves quality homes. A recent success for Esther and her family, supported by Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth and Lambeth Housing Activists, shows that collective organising works! Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth have been doing lots of good work providing support for each other and organising together, but it’s also really nice, and quite a boost, to have a concrete result like this. HASL will be celebrating their first birthday this month – check out their beautiful invitation here.

 

I loved listening to this. Novara’s James Butler interviews writer and journalist Melissa Gira Grant – author of Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work. It’s brilliant. I learnt A LOT. You should listen too.

 

 

 

Interesting articles and actions

14 Mar

I’ve got a small collection of some infuriating, some exciting articles/links that I’ve come across recently. I’ve tweeted them out enthusiastically, but I think they deserve a bit more attention so I thought I’d have a go at putting them together in a blog post.

Firstly there’s the vile Hammersmith and Fulham council who have used the Localism Act 2011 to narrow the already incredibly restrictive criteria for accessing social housing. Here Hammersmith and Fulham state that those who ‘have given something back to the community’ will be prioritised – showing how workfare is creeping into housing policy as people are forced to ‘volunteer’ in order to access housing instead of housing being allocated according to need. The situation at the moment already means that people are not getting housing to meet their needs – the criteria to access social housing is already very narrow and local councils have all sorts of gate keeping techniques to stop people who are eligible from accessing it. London Coalition Against Poverty has done a lot of great work supporting people getting their homelessness rights (read their pamphlet here) and will be looking into local councils in London to find out what their new policies are with plans for action around this.

On the subject of housing, there has been another protest occupation of a council owned residential property that Camden council were selling off. The protest by Camden Housing Action Group was against the sell-off of council housing and social cleansing, and against the law that criminalises squatting residential buildings. Two people in the protest occupation were arrested under section 144 that criminalises living or intending to live in an abandoned residential property. The court case should be interesting as it was clearly a protest occupation with no one living or intending to live there. Section 144 criminalises homeless people. Here it is being used to criminalise people taking direct action on the housing crisis. Challenges like this – using abandoned residential building for protest occupations, social centres etc – to the law are really important to make this law impossible to enforce. ‘Empty houses, homeless people, that is what should be illegal!’ The two will be in court on Friday 28th March – show them your support on Twitter, facebook etc.

Yet more inspiring housing action – the Focus E15 mums are fighting for their right to secure social housing in the home borough of Newham. Kate Belgrave has been following the women’s’ campaign and Johnny Void has written a good article on them too.  

Crowbar Sisterhood published their March newsletter with lots of really cool events in the making. “Crowbar Sisterhood is an inclusive group for all current/former/wannabe squatters who identify as women, including transgender women, and AFAB (assigned female at birth) genderqueer/non-binary trans people who feel a connection to women’s communities.”

The Empty Cages Collective is a newly formed group in Bristol made up of people who have been directly affected by the prison-industrial complex and who have been in prison-related struggles and support. They have called for a year of action and organising against the prison-industrial complex and have organised a Tear Down the Walls speaker tour to help kick this off.  Keep your eyes on their website for future events and texts on the prison industrial complex and abolition in the UK.

I love this collection of refusal of work cultural artefacts collected by Novara Media. It’s a shame that the majority of these expressions against work also have shit gender politics – the exception being the absolutely awesome Dolly Parton and Co. in 9 to 5 whose militant anti-work and feminist politics sees them lassoing their boss and taking over the workplace.

There’s the Boycott Workfare week of action (29 March to 6 April) against the new Community Work Placement scheme which is due to start on 1 April, forcing people to work unpaid for 6 months or else face losing subsistence benefits.  There’s loads of suggestions for local actions on the blog and Boycott Workfare can offer support with promotion, stickers, and leaflets. Workfare providers like Seetec have complained that they’re struggling to find workfare placements because of all the actions people are taking. Let’s make sure that this latest and longest scheme completely collapses.

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are celebrating their first birthday this April. There will be details of a social event on their website soon so if you’re south London based and angry at high rents, benefit cuts, gentrification and more come along and meet the group and have cake.

I think that’s everything. I just stumbled upon this Hackney isn’t crap anti-gentrification walking tour from 2008 which I’ve bookmarked for later. 

Boycott Workfare Welfare Action Gathering

17 Feb

Boycott Workfare’s welfare action gathering on Saturday was a massive success. 80 people from groups across the country came to participate in the day of workshops based around info and skill sharing on the various welfare issues we face. The programme was packed, with sessions on JSA, ESA, housing, fuel poverty, and more, with people remarking on the difficulty of deciding which workshop to attend when there were clashes. We organised the gathering because supporting claimants to know and enforce their so-called rights, and claimants organising together and shaping the campaign, has always been a major part of what we do. For this to happen effectively local mutual support groups are key (it was from a London Coalition Against Poverty group that Boycott Workfare came out of) – we’ve distributed thousands of ‘How to Avoid Workfare’ leaflets but along with these, we really need a buddy or a group of people when challenging Job Centre Plus. The gathering was called to support the growing number of local groups so that we can build on the impressive work of challenging workfare and sanctions across the country through mutual support and direct action, like the examples shared with us early on in the day of the occupation of the £3 million council house and a blockade of the workfare exploiters Salvation Army.

The space to share these sorts of stories, experiences and tactics is how all the sessions were structured allowing the massive amount of knowledge held by everyone there from direct experiences of struggling within and against the welfare system to be collected together. If you’ve got notes from the day, send them to Boycott Workfare to be collated with the ones they’ve taken, and feel free to post below. I particularly liked the comment in the mutual support group discussion asking how we could build counter power like that in late 1970s Italy. We didn’t quite get round to discussing this in the session, but we did have a really interesting discussion in the limited time we had.

A diverse range of grassroots groups participated including Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, London Coalition Against Poverty, Disabled People Against Cuts, Fuel Poverty Action, Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Leeds Hands Off Our Homes, Hackney Digs, Bristol Claimants Union, Birmingham Claimants Union, Brighton Benefits Campaign, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group, Crossroads Women’s Centre, Refuted, Universal Automation, and possibly some I’ve forgotten, as well as people from places without a group but looking to start one. The gathering allowed people to make thick ties with other people and groups with loads of really valuable discussions happening within and outside the workshops throughout the day. It was really wonderful seeing so many new people, hearing inspiring stories, coming up with new ideas for actions (keep your eyes peeled) and new networks of support (e.g. informal email based groups for working tax credits and a mutual support group discussion). The workshop on Universal Automation has lead to some new ideas for this awesome app and I’m sure that lots more will come out of the day over the coming months.

 

 

Articles I loved reading this year

26 Dec

I really like reading lists. Verso have made one for 2013 and there’s the greatly anticipated Novara reading list. I thought I’d bring together some of the best things I’ve read, and tweeted out excitedly, this year. There’s quite a lot on housing just cos I’ve been reading and doing stuff a lot on this recently. And there’s a massive and appalling absence of feminism/queer writings which I need to sort out – although women and gender issues do feature strongly in many welfare and housing articles. Also, my memory is pretty bad, so I’m sure I’ve missed loads of good stuff I read in the first half of the year. Hopefully you’ll find something to enjoy below and feel free to make suggestions of other articles.

Housing

Victims no longer: Spain’s anti-eviction movement

Housing and gentrification in Berlin; some thoughts and ideas

Social cleansing in Tower Hamlets: Interview with Balfron Tower Evictee

Housing, Homelessness and Austerity

This property is ConDemned

The housing crisis is a war – squatting is our (not so secret) weapon

Despite the state’s violence, our fight to escape the mud and fire of South Africa’s slums will continue

Welfare, work, anti-work

Werqin’ 9 to 5: cursory notes on antiwork politics from Dolly Parton to Shangela Laquifa

“The revolution starts in the ATOS smoking area” – on welfare, addiction, and dependency

Postfordism and mental health

Workers Against Work Working Group Introductory Statement 

Crisis in the cleaning sector

Sport

An overview of Italy’s anti-fascist gyms and boxing clubs

Economy stuff

Post-China and the Spatial Fix

Migration

Meet the Somalis: The illustrated stories of Somalis in seven cities in Europe

And this from earlier in the week was really cool – Merry Crisis and a Happy New Fear: Heavy Clashes in Hamburg

Tonnes of housing action stuff

14 Nov
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Detail from a decorated door that was left outside the occupation of the Southwark council house

Next week at 195 Mare street social centre in Hackney, there’s a Free School running with workshops, films, and discussions. Each day has a different theme with housing/homelessness/benefits, Do It Yourself day, queer-feminism, and art. The timetable for the week looks amazing – incredibly varied and full (there’s a talk on ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’, I’m excited about raw cooking cos I had my first raw cake a couple of months back and it was mind blowing).

Thursday 21st is housing/homelessness/benefits day with a jam-packed schedule ranging from advice and support sessions, talks with local housing action groups, and a lock and barricade workshop at 3.30pm, with the day finishing up with some kick boxing. I’m super excited about the day as it looks like a great chance for people to come together, make links, share info, learn practical skills, and plan more projects around welfare and housing action. I’m excited by the whole week as there is so much interesting stuff on. Don’t miss it!

Other exciting housing things include:

The visit this week by members of Abahlali baseMjondolo and their inspiring piece in the Guardian.

Space Hijacker’s FOXtons HUNT this Saturday meeting at 2pm outside the pub at London Fields.

Lambeth protest at the town hall 6pm Wednesday 20th on housing, education, and welfare cuts.

Numerous successful challenges to the residential squatting ban including Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth’s occupation of a council house which was being sold off which attracted national media attention and massive support, including home baked cake.

Talks about future housing actions across London.

My mate’s housing based tweets from her Berlin visit and a promised article on it.

And beyond housing and linked in with housing, there is loads of inspiring stuff going on – including the 3 Cosas campaign, London Campaign Against Police and State Violence, South London Anti-Fascists, the Week of Action Against Sanctions and Workfare.

See you on the streets (and in the squats)!

Welfare and Housing Information day – Saturday 26th October 3pm-6pm

24 Oct
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