Archive | February, 2013

Housing for all protest at City Hall & ACAB

22 Feb

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.

Disrupting Southwark council’s planning meeting and holding our own

6 Feb

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Enough! Local campaigners make their way to the front of the room to show their opposition to the plans.ImageThe committee get ready to flee, check out that man with his hands on his hips, he means business.

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The committee are ambushed by red ‘rip-off’ t-shirted campaigners.Image

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The committee have gone, leaving behind a ‘Warning’ on their power point slide.Image

Local campaigners hold an alternative meeting in the foyer to discuss what we do now.Image

Yesterday evening Southwark council’s planning committee met to rubber stamp a Detailed Planning Application for ‘phase one’ of the ‘regeneration’ of part of the Heygate estate between Rodney Road and Balfour Street.

The room was packed with local residents showing their opposition to the scheme and the farcical process which has seen residents’ views ignored as Southwark Council push through with the plans to demolish a working class neighbourhood and replace it with yet more yuppie flats.

As was to be expected, the meeting lived up to the farce promised by Southwark Notes Archive Group as developers described a car park which would act as communal amenity space and how a colour palette of ‘flamboyant’ and then more ‘subdued’ brickwork of the proposed buildings would retain the character of the area. On hearing the developer describe the intricacies of the brickwork colour scheme, local residents had MEGA LOLZ.

It also turned out that council officers have been denied access to a viability report – adding another secret document to the 2010 Regeneration Agreement that had been confidential until it was accidentally leaked by Southwark Council online this week. This latter document shows what a real rip-off Southwark council have willingly signed up to getting just £55 million from the 22 acre site when a nearby 1.5 acre site recently sold for £40 million, as well as breaching their own policy of 35% affordable housing in large developments.

Shortly after a female officer was rudely shouted down by the chair, local residents decided we had had enough. 40 of us, wearing red t-shirts with an elephant and the words ‘rip-off’ printed on them, made our way to the front of the room in order to have our voices heard. The planning committee called for the meeting to be adjourned and quickly exited the room, terrified of being confronted by the people they are hoping to displace.

Our group made our way to the foyer where we sat together and held an open discussion on about the situation and what we wanted to do next now that we have fully disengaged from their process. We discussed the draining, individualising, and futile nature of working on their terms; that power lay with us, but also their in that room where we knew that the application would go through; finding pressure points and leverage that we could use; the importance of working in our communities and the hard work and long-term basis of this; not being intimidated by the language and the boring way that they speak in meetings – what they are saying is not complicated to understand; that people do know and understand what is happening when they see that their housing benefit goes no way to cover their rent and that the local corner store has been turned into a chain store, and so the question is where do we go from this; the importance of learning and linking with other campaigns – some discussed and represented were Earl’s Court campaign, community organising in LA, squatting in Spain, Library Street Social Centre and Crossbones graveyard; how our actions are co-opted by the Council and consultation industry, for example if we were to ask residents what they wanted, this information would be sure to be hijacked; the importance of story-telling as a way to share the knowledge we have and to inspire action, particularly using the Heygate experience to organise with the Aylesbury estate. I also wrote down the word ‘love’ in my notes but with no further explanation.