The Counihan family and their supporters held a lively protest outside Boris’ building this afternoon demanding ‘housing for all’ and standing against the massive housing benefit cuts that will come through in April.
In freezing temperates, we chanted and sang non-stop for almost two hours, attracting curious glances and support from passing tourists. The family had made up a particularly brilliant song about their housing situation – which I’m sad to say I cannot find a youtube video of to link – which saw away the bitter cold as we bopped about.
The Couihan’s were denied housing benefits and made homeless last April by Brent council for declaring £18 a week income from land they had inherited from Ireland. Brent Housing have told them to go and live in an empty field in Ireland and their local MP Glenda Jackson told them to move to Wales as it would be cheaper. They have been living in sub-standard temporary accommodation since April where there is damp in every room.
Whilst fighting for their own housing rights, they have taken on campaigning against the housing crisis that we are all affected by.
The protest culminated in the Cunihan’s handing in a letter for Boris to City hall followed by supporters. Boris has ignored their many emails about taking action on housing in London so they didn’t hold much faith.
What had been a fun and good natured protest was suddenly marred by aggressive security in the lobby. One security guard pushed a young girl in the back, when she complained of this to those around her, the guard was heard saying that she was lying. The young girl was visibly distressed by the push and the false accusation made against her. About 10 police then arrived in the lobby and ordered protestors out with the threat of arrest. A mass arrest of children under 16 would have been interesting.
When the young girl made a complaint to a police man about the assault the scum of a policeman refused to do his job and investigate and take action. Instead he made up a load of lies saying that as we were trespassing the security guard was allowed to use force. We pointed out that he had pushed her in the back before we had been told we were trespassing. The policeman then offered her the options of either taking down everyone’s details (we protested that this had nothing to do with anything) or leaving it be. Most horrific of all, he said to the young girl in an accusatory and almost threatening tone ‘now to make it clear, you haven’t said anything about this being sexual’ as if he were implying that she might later claim it was sexual. We shouted back at him outraged that he was making such assumptions that she would do this, when she’d made it quite clear what her complaint was. He was putting words in her mouth that she had not uttered. This policeman was making the assumption that this young girl might later fabricate assault of a sexual nature. This is what women do, was the clear assumption. God knows how he treats women who are reporting sexual assaults.
So, after we were all threatened with arrest for being inside City Hall, the police overlooked a real crime and used sexist victim blaming instead. Rather aptly we’d been chanting earlier on: ‘This is what democracy looks like’.
Check out this report and photos from People’s Republic of Southwark.
Like the Counihan’s facebook page here.
I’ve got some photos that I’ll upload soon.