Thursday, 28 July 2011

A little post on MEDIA from SNOB(AHA) over in Brighton...

In the media, there are both left wing and right wing views on squatting. The former tends to be liberal and tolerant, the latter is outraged and bays for blood. Recently there has been a campaign emanating from the Telegraph and the Evening Standard to criminalise squatting. The Housing Minister Grant Schapps has been saying some really stupid things like how home-owners are entitled to use sledgehammers to break the door to regain possession of their houses, since it is ‘only’ property damage.
According to Councillor Maria Caulfield (Cabinet Member for Housing, Brighton and Hove City Councill) who wrote a letter to the Argus:
Unfortunately, the romantic notion of the squatter who inhabits a property that would otherwise stand around empty, even makes improvements to the property and leaves for the next empty home without costing anyone anything, has long since disappeared.
In Caulfield’s world, “squatters cost local taxpayers thousands of pounds” because of all the damage they do to Council properties. She seems to sidestep all too neatly the question of why these properties are empty and why the Council does not have plans for them. She even claims that having to repair buildings damaged by squatters leads to “unwelcome delays” for families who are desperate to move into these properties.
You just have ask WHY there are 3,600 empty homes in Brighton.
Squatting can be seen anti-capitalist direct action and thus attracts a lot of repression. Squats are often illegally harrassed by FIT [Forward Intelligence Team] units or even raided before demonstrations. This occured in 2004 with the illegal eviction of a squat in the leadup to the Labour Party Conference. In another case, the night before a SmashEDO demo in 2010, a squat was raided on a flimsy pretext, leaving the front door completely destroyed.
‘Mad Mike’ Weatherley, the MP for Hove, is currently proposing in Parliament that squatting should be made a criminal offence. This is quite ironic seeing as Brighton and Hove police routinely evicts squats illegally on flimsy grounds such as suspected criminal damage or abstraction of electricity which they think allows them to over-ride the Section6 and kick the door in. Let’s get this straight – the police regularly intimidate squatters with spurious charges (eg criminal damage for taking off a lock) which never end up in court. What a waste of taxpayers’ money!
the law attacks
The flipside of the coin here is munterism, by which I mean squatters being vague and uninformed.The cops have also got used to being able to blag or kick their way into buildings. If people were more on it and knew their rights the police would not be able to do this (or at least it would happen less). Brighton has changed a lot in the last 15 years. It’s now a place where the centre is patrolled by private security (SASS), you have to pay for parking pretty much everywhere in the centre, traveller vehicles are hassled out of town and (most outrageous of all) the cops are planning to put a police station on the Level (‘for the community’!?). Squats in the Laines might now be hard to pull off, but then having said that, 325 and ABC did a squat party on London Road in the old Sainsburys (now Aldi) in 2007.
Nowadays it is hard to squat here, not impossible but difficult. Sussex Street, Shaftesbury Place, Rugby Place, Southdown Road, College Terrace and Albion Road have all seen squats which lasted at the most a few months, sometimes just days. There are other squats, better off anonymous, which have existed for years, but these are certainly the exceptions rather than the rule. However, things do seem to be on the up, as proven by the recent Taj occupation. It was amazing that a building in central Brighton could be held until eviction through the court process without descending into a mess. The main reason for that was presumably the safer spaces policy which ensured that no-one in the building was using alcohol or other drugs.
Enough people are fed up of projects descending into chaos that now good things are sprouting up again. In its brief lifetime the Sabotaj project attracted a lot of people and energy. Despite squatting being legal (for now!) and despite there being plenty of positive stories about squatting if you care to look for them, it seems that mainstream opinion is massively against squatting. This is in some degree shaped by (and indeed shapes) the appalling coverage given to the comparitively few instances of bad squatting stories. The Government has now (July 2011) begun a three month consultation period which may result in the criminalisation of squatting. SQUASH (Squatters Action for Secure Homes) has reformed. And whatever happens, squatting will continue.
Don’t believe the hype…
Squat the world! 
This is the last bit of a two part history of Brighton that snob(aha) have been putting together. CHECK.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

What's it all about...? from Caracol

On 13th of July 2011, the government published a consultation paper:"Options
for dealing with Squatting". The consultation period ends on 5th October
2011 so **we need to act NOW to be heard**

The proposals outlined would affect a much wider community than those who
identify as squatters;


   tenants would be at risk from unscrupulous landlords,


   worker and student occupations would be illegal – as would peace and
   climate camps.


   Police discretion is considered as a way of determining who is or is not
   a squatter –


   violent and forcible eviction of squatters would be legal 


   Anyone who used a squatted social centre or venue could be labelled a
   squatter, regardless of whether they actually lived there.


   And this is the last of our ancestral rights to go.

 For hundreds of years, we have had the right to live in abandoned
buildings.  Just as the government took away our land and rights to use
common land in the past, now they are attacking our right to shelter.

In 2009 there were 725,000 empty homes – the government estimate the number
of squatters in England and Wales at 20,000: squatting is not the problem,
it is part of the solution.

We have a problem fighting this. The consultation paper pretends to be
speaking for the normal, respectable person although it is clear enough that
the interests being promoted are those of big developers and property

The negative images of squatters spread in the media in recent months make
it hard for us to convince people that this is not a 'squatter' consultation
but an attack on the human right to shelter that will impact most heavily on
the most vulnerable people in society. These are standard divide and rule


*How you can help*



   Please understand that this is not just about squatters and parties and
   'it was nice while it lasted'.


   Pass this mail on; convince everyone in your network and get them to pass
   it on too.


   The government published this consultation paper over the summer, we
   believe calculating that our resistance would be lowest, when many of us are
   travelling or partying.  Let's exploit this and spread the word at every
   festival, gathering, gig and event; talk to people, tell them what is
   happening, take some leaflets or posters to display.


   Many of you musicians and creatives have squatted – now we need you to
   put something back, exploit your networks and get the word out. Please.


   Have a look at and for an idea of what is happening and to
   get hold of flyers and posters. If you want to find out more or read the
   consultation paper, there are a few links at the end.


   Respond to the consultation document; we need as large a quantity of
   responses from individuals as we can – and they don't need to be hugely
   detailed as the chances of them ever being read are low - but they will be


   If you represent an interested organisation or constituency, your
   response has a slightly greater chance of being read and so it may be worth
   setting out quality arguments. Check the Squash website at the beginning of
   August for guidance on writing responses and details of online petitions.

 If you have time to do any or all of this, that is fine, and thank you – it
will have a massive impact if enough of us do what we can.


 ---*Read on if you are up for more*---


   Come along to our next squattastic meeting – you don't need to be
   squatting right now to participate! Next one on Sunday 7th August, at 2pm at
   Caracol in Greenwich – check the squattastic website or call 07757 009150 on
   Friday 5th for details of the venue. Come and resist criminalisation of
   LEGAL squatting.


   Or find out what is happening in your area. No local group? Why not work
   with your network and start one?


   Once you know what is happening, think about joining up with others
   either on one of the working groups or by participating in planned actions.


   Or you might want to plan an action or campaign within your own network
   and community and it would be good if you let us know if you do. Keep in
   touch – and put out calls for help if you need it.


   Offer your help – use squattastic meetings and email list to offer your
   skills, resources and time.


   Share anything you produce so that we are not duplicating effort – again
   use the squattastic networks as well as the independent media and your own

   If you are squatting right now, fill in a research questionnaire.
   squattastic is participating in some research to try to generate more
   reliable data. Since the government say that one of the purposes of the
   consultation is to generate data on squatting it is important that we get
   lots of responses so that we can counter with our own reliable facts. Check
   squattastic website for details.


   Send any horror stories on illegal evictions, unscrupulous landlords and
   developer or property speculator malpractice to Caracol via squattastic. We
   are looking at the possibility of mounting an Option 6 campaign – with a
   focus on the real problem, the 725,000 homes that were standing empty in


   Donate what you can afford to the campaign – we owe the printer!

 ---*Some Facts*---

 *725,000* Empty homes in England in 2009 (

*500,000* Crisis estimate of homeless in England in 2010 (Sheffield Hallam
research for Crisis)

*300,000* Government estimate long term empty homes in England (

*50,000* living in ‘temporary’ accommodation in England (

*42,000* households officially homeless in England (

*40,000* more households may become homeless due to welfare reforms (

*20,000* Government estimate of the number of squatters in UK (consultation
document - but no research cited in support of this figure)

*1,400* Landlords petitioned Government for a change in the law (

*531* ordinary possession orders granted in 2010 (and these include land as
well as property trespass orders) - (Consultation document)

*216* interim possession orders granted in 2010 - (Consultation document)

*25* cases of squatting prosecuted in Scotland in last 10 years TOTAL
(squatting is an offence in Scotland) (Graeme Brown, Shelter Scotland)

 *£38,000* Cost per year of housing a prisoner

*£20,000* Cost per year of housing a family claiming maximum Housing Benefit
(Capped at £400 per week for a 4 bedroomed dwelling)

*£0* cost per year of housing a squatter


 *Squash Campaign*


 *Government consultation document*: Options on dealing with squatting

 *A very thorough analysis*:

 *Independent Media/Information Networks*

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


The consultation is upon us and, in the words of the guardian last week, it is 'drip[ping] with the embarrassment of the officials who'd been ordered to write it'. The tellingly thin document is titled 'Options for dealing with Squatters', and briefly outlines five different positions the government could take in regards to dealing with squatters. We have until October to challenge the consultation's proposals of criminalisation: encouranging as broad a range of groups and individuals to respond to the government and highlight the different areas on which these legislative changes will be negatively felt. The SQUASH blog has already begun to draw together some of the different fields that a criminalisation of squatting would impact on, and at this stage it is crucial to recognise the extent of the ramifications of the proposed legislation. Not only will it push vulnerable people into further destitution, it removes a fundamental right to protest, further corrodes tenants rights, and strips artists and musicians of one of the few means by which they can continue working in a time of austerity and funding cuts. The list continues. We need action from all the groups affected, and also from those who can draw the dots between them. 'Action' because we need to think beyond the limited scope that the consultation offers us to block this legislation. As John Stuart pushed in the meeting last week at the House of Commons, the consultation process is well within the government's comfort zone and they are more than capable of welcoming all the well researched, intelligent responses, garnering some legitimacy by accepting them all, and then just ignoring it. It is imperative that we make a scene outside the dusty halls of Parliament, take the story through the government's comfort zone and stir it up.
So, we need a broad and thorough response challenging the proposed criminalisation via the official avenue of the consultation process; but cruicially we also need  squatters, ex-squatters, and all the parties that know the value of squatting to bring the consultation to life and vividly demonstrate that value, so that the opposition cannot simply be dismissed.
(The consultation can be accessed here, and over the next couple of weeks SQUASH will be putting together some guidance to help people respond constructively to the consultation.)

Monday, 18 July 2011


MESHO, The 16-page tabloid spoof paper about squatting, homelessness and autonomous spaces is out! Access the full pdf over at schnews:

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Resist the evictions at Clifton Mansions: Tuesday 12th July

Clifton Mansions on Coldharbour Lane is a community of squatters in the heart
of Brixton.  Squatted since the 1990s, the 22 flats are home to a large and
diverse group of people.  The residents have repaired and maintained the
properties after Lambeth Council left them empty and neglected.  Clustered
around a central courtyard Clifton Mansions is a safe and vibrant community
where violence and abuse are not tolerated.

On Tuesday 12 July 2011 the police plan to block off Coldharbour Lane and
enforce the eviction of all the people living in Clifton Mansions.  Making the
astonishing claim that evicting Clifton Mansions will somehow solve the problem
of drug crime in Brixton, the police failed to consult with local councillors
before pushing ahead with this plan.  Clifton Mansions residents have received
only two weeks notice that they are to be evicted from their homes.

Following the evictions, Lambeth Council will pay Camelot, a private company,
to provide “live-in guardians” to occupy Clifton Mansions.    The squatters
have been providing a free guardian service for years.    Why make people
homeless and then pay a multinational company to occupy their homes?

Eventually Lambeth wants to sell Clifton Mansions to property developers,
further reducing Lambeth's social housing stock in central Brixton.  Clifton
Mansions will be turned into luxury flats priced well beyond the means of the
local community.

Please contact the council and the police to let them know what you think.

Show your support on eviction day:

12 July – 8am – Clifton Mansions – 429 Coldharbour Lane

or come earlier (eg the night before) if you wanna be inside the mansions not just on the street outside....

They're closing the street so let's have a party!