Today we had a meeting to which all residents of the Aylesbury Estate were invited, to discuss the estate’s immediate practical problems, the council’s demolition plans and how we can organise to combat both.
We heard from leaseholders still living behind the prison-like fences of the phase one demolition area. We head from tenants in the phase two demolition area who area confused about if and how they are supposed to find other places to go.
Everyone had complaints about council neglect, particularly the council’s refusal to fix leaks. They pointed out that this is the result of the council sub-contracting repair work to private companies in whose interest it is not to complete work. Others described it as an intentional strategy to damage the estate and persuade residents it needs demolishing.
We also heard about the broader movement to destroy London’s council housing and the struggles against it (poster series). Aylesbury is one of eighty estates that will be demolished over the next decade and rebuilt to be sold and rented on the open market, and – as one resident pointed out – kept as an investment, not even to be lived in!
Together we decided to compile a dossier of council neglect, to do some repair work ourselves, and to continue with our stalls and petition against demolition. Other things, of course, we won’t write about here…
The next meeting for all residents will be in October.
During our occupation of the Aylesbury Estate we were generally quite good at avoiding the police. A hundred riot cops failed to end the occupation in February and, at the beginning of April, we tore down the fence around the demolition zone before they even got into their gear. But some of us were arrested. We were charged with criminal trespass, with assault and with criminal damage. People everywhere always need to defend themselves against police attacks, and acts of solidarity against the police have become the particular focus of events in South London recently.
During ‘Reclaim Brixton’ protesters blocked the roads, danced in the street and stormed the town hall and police station. They smashed the windows of Foxtons and of Barnardos – the charity which runs the government’s detention centre for migrant children. They fought with riot police when they tried to make arrests. Then, in East Street on 21 June, a crowd blockaded an immigration raid and fought the riot cops who came to support it. They attempting to free the person who was detained. They let down the tires of the vans and broke their windows, pelted them with eggs, vegetables, bricks and whatever they found on the street. The Home Office got their prisoner in the end, but there is no way they can fight solidarity of this intensity every time they want to catch one person.
Other acts of solidarity followed. People were charged with criminal damage and ‘violent disorder’ over what happened in Brixton and East Street and the police have let it be known that they are still looking for others. After the arrests on East Street there was a protest during which Walworth police station was covered with banners, its waiting room was taken over with a sound system and dancing and with dumped rubbish. The party let the arrested know they were not alone. And it showed the police their repression would not go unchallenged.
People also continued to go back to East Street to distribute posters and flyers about immigration raids and police repression. They shared legal information and talked with people, celebrating what happened and affirming the need to keep fighting. On East Street people are building the connections to defend each other even more effectively.
Any struggle which really confronts violence and impoverishment will have to defend itself against the police. So we need all these kinds of solidarity. We need solidarity that responds immediately in a moment of attack, solidarity that is the ability to prevent arrests from even taking place. We need messages of solidarity that let people know they will be supported if they get arrested and that deter the police who know we will fight back. And we need solidarity that is the connections between people, the preparedness to give and take support, which allows us to grow stronger.
June 21, 2015
Home Office immigration enforcement have been targeting the East Street market in Walworth, London SE17, all week, with no less than five raids over previous days. Today they came again at 5PM and snatched one man from a fish shop, presumably accused of working without legal documents.
But this time, things were not going to go so easy for the thugs in blue. After call-outs went out through the local grapevine and also on social media, people from the area including the next door Aylesbury Estate rushed down to the scene. The Home Office snatch van was blockaded and penned in on a side street off the market. The bullies retreated inside the van with their prisoner while it was surrounded by people’s bodies and by makeshift barricades, the tires were let down, and it was pelted with rotten fruit and eggs from the market.
The Home Office thugs called in police reinforcements. They arrived with six cars of cops, plus dog vans and plainclothes cops, and a helicopter circling overhead, as the street was cordoned off. However, the crowd kept on growing as more people from the estate and nearby streets joined in, local teenagers called up their mates, others arrived seeing it on social media.
The stand off continued for over an hour, the local police clueless about what to do next. Then three vans of TSG riot cops arrived, tooled up in full body armour. The TSG pushed through, escorting the Home Office van limping out on deflated tires. They came under sustained attack as new barricades of street furniture kept getting thrown up to stop their progress and hails of rocks, bottles, road cones, etc., kept them at bay. At least one TSG cop was knocked to the floor, a riot van windscreen and other windows broken.
In the end, they managed to get their prisoner out, and also took one more arrested from the resisters. After the immigration van had got out the crowd kept blocking the TSG vans with commercial rubbish bins and other barriers to continue the fighting. Eventually, visibly shaken by the angry mob,the TSG managed to escape. After giving them a rowdy send-off, the crowd danced to a mobile sound system.
This was concerted angry action which brought together local teenagers, Aylesbury Estate residents, anarchists, and whoever was in the street and not going to take this shit lying down. If we could meet more raids with resistance like this it would seriously screw up the system of repression. This is the response we want to be growing on our streets, every day of the week.
A select list of Direct Action regarding housing:
Every Friday we are having a stall and going for a little march after. Come down to East Street 2-5 pm this week (12 June)!
On Wednesday (3 June) we are visiting the AJ120 architects awards at which the architects who are involved in the ‘regeneration’/gentrification of Aylesbury are being nominated for the award of collaboration of the year!? We will meet in the Tower of London Park on north side of the tower at 6pm.
Then on Friday (5 June) we will be demonstrating around the estate itself. We’ll have a stall somewhere around East Street Market from 2pm. If all goes well, we might go on a little march about about 5pm… The forecast is for hot weather and we plan to have some fun!
Several hundred people responded to our call-out for an “Eviction Eve solidarity demo”.
Solidarity with the remaining residents, who are still living in the enclosure (aka “First Development Site”), and will be for months to come.
For the past few weeks, the presence of the fences and security guards has made life intolerable for these people.
They have been asking why they’re no longer able to get in and out of their homes using the most convenient routes, and the nearest gates. Despite having guards stationed at each gate 24 hours/day, legitimate residents have been forced to make an arduous detour – of up to half a mile – each time they enter or leave (!) the area, leaving some house-bound.
They complain that they weren’t consulted about this arrangement, and that it’s not what they envisioned when they lobbied the council last year to install door-entry systems on the blocks themselves.
Whenever their friends or family come to visit, the security guards make them come all the way to the main gate to authorise their guests’ entry. Anyone not capable of walking the extra distance has been unable to visit.
Despite having every right to be there, guests of tenants and leaseholders have reported being intimidated and sometimes chased through the estate by security guards. Some of them have even been assaulted and ejected from the area. The security guards have acted unlawfully and with impunity. The police have still not taken any action about these assaults.
When the fences went up, and the locks were fitted on the gates, some of the residents were assured that they would be given keys for these locks. Two weeks later, no keys.
And no response from the council about any of these complaints. Even when the story made it into the newspapers, all the council spokesperson could say was that they would “review the situation”. Still no word on that review.
We’ve been forced to leave Chiltern House, due to the Interim Possession Order granted to the council in court on Thursday. We’ve left the enclosure. With us gone, there is absolutely no excuse for the council to keep treating the residents “like animals” (their own words), trapped in what has now been dubbed “Alcatraz”.
Obviously the residents have not been the only people affected by the fences. It’s clear to us that their construction was “expedited” (speeded up) because of our occupations. The council hoped to stop us from protesting, and stop people from the rest of the estate/ world from coming to visit us.
If leaseholders and their tenants were adversely affected, the council probably just hoped that it would encourage them to move out quicker, and accept whatever incredibly insultingly low figure offered to them for their flats. Just like the elderly folk CPO (Compulsary Purchase Order) -ed out of the Wolverton flats, these people’s lives are just collatoral damage to Southwark.
The council didn’t bother with planning permission or stopping up orders, meaning that the fences themselves are illegal.
Along with hundreds of others from the neighbourhood, we took direct action against the fences. On the evening of 2nd April, we brought down the fences in three places, spread out around the perimeter. No machinery was involved – it was pure people power.
The Creation Trust claims to represent those who live on the Aylesbury, and says it cares about their views. It claims to “consult” but isn’t very good at listening. Just like the council itself, it has ignored the complaints of both leaseholders and tenants. These days, the Creation Trust is almost entirely controlled by the council, in the shape of people like Councillor Mark Williams. He could have done something to help the beleagured residents if he had wanted to.
Instead of doing something themselves, they decided to brand our action a “cheap publicity stunt”. Anyone who had actually taken the time to read our media policy would find this laughable. We don’t do things for publicity. We do things because they need done. We do things for ourselves, together, sometimes together with others, and we don’t wait for permission.
We’re not going to pander to the politicians, to the media, to those paid to “represent”, “consult” or “revitalise” us. We’re not going to sit back and wait for them to do the right thing. They’re already in the pockets of the developers, the privateers, and the other financial interests at play here.
We have not stopped Fighting for the Aylesbury and against its destruction. We continue to stand in solidarity with the leaseholders and tenants who want to stay on the estate.
As last night’s demonstration showed, more and more people are willing to take direct action to defend public land and housing.
We will continue to take direct action ourselves, and we will continue to occupy space.
Watch our blog for updates
PS: There was only one arrest on Thursday night. The police have consistently failed to take complaints of security guard violence seriously. However, they did arrest an Aylesbury leaseholder, following an incident with a belligerent guard, well after the fences had fallen, and most of the protestors had left the area.
This news prompted a spontaneous, and very lively, solidarity demo at Walworth Road cop shop, which continued long after her release.
Despite five hours in custody, she was upbeat about the campaign, and touched by the large number of people waiting for her. We support all arrestees, and will support her through whatever happens next.
While we there we met a lot of people, and made some new friends. Including one elderly man who had been called in to collect his daughter at 6pm, and was still waiting for her nine hours later. The custody suite repeatedly told him that she would be released “soon” but refused to give him any other explanation for the long wait in the cold.
As he said himself “It’s no wonder that people don’t like the police”. Anyway with our presence and music we made the police station reception a less intimidating and unfriendly place than it usually is.
Today, after tearing down the fences built by Southwark council to isolate us, we left our occupation of the Aylesbury Estate. Several hundred people came to destroy the cages. No fence can contain us. No fence can keep us out. We are squatters who are not bound by the borders of the Aylesbury estate. We are residents who still have leases and tenancies. We are everyone who needs a place to stay. We are bound by nothing but this need. See you soon at Aylesbury. See you soon at Sweets Way. See you at the Guinness Trust. See you at UAL, LSE, Kings and Goldsmiths. See you soon in all the squats. See you at every protest and minor act of resistance. See you soon everywhere.
They claim to be following orders from Southwark Council, to deny access to the ‘First Development Site ‘ (FDS) area, which is now entirely sealed off with a large fence. Not just deny access to us (we who continue to occupy in Chiltern) but also anyone else trying to visit the area.
There are still around twenty households (both leaseholders and tenants) who haven’t been ‘decanted’ yet, and they are also suffering from the fencing. Despite the presence of security guards at each of the seven gates around its perimeter, they are not allowed to enter or leave through six of those gates. Instead they are forced to make a lengthy detour, all the way over to the gate on Westmoreland Road, every time they leave their homes or come back in.
If guests want to visit them, the security guards insist that the residents must come all the way to that one gate to fetch them. This had made it impossible for many elderly friends and relatives to visit at all, and has left at least one woman housebound.
Whenever asked about the fencing/ security arrangements, the council trot out a line about how they did this because those residents asked them to. From our conversations with the residents, it’s clear that this is a lie. Some of them asked for doors to be fitted to the actual blocks they live in, with an entry-phone system to let their guests in, but they didn’t ask for this. They had no wish to deprive people from walking their dogs, or travelling across this corner of the estate, and hate the fact that they now live in what is effectively a big cage.
The council ignored their requests, and built the fence without any consultation, without any planning permission (neither for the fence nor for the proposed development) and without obtaining ‘stopping up orders’, even though its construction has prevented members of the public from using rights of way across the estate.
When they first fitted the gates, the residents were told they’d be given keys, so they could continue using the gate nearest to their flats/ most convenient for them. However this hasn’t happened.
Not content with abusing their power at the gates, the security are also now prowling the enclosure, chasing anyone they see and challenging them in an intimidating manner. They are telling people that this is now a “dead zone” and that nobody may walk through it. They have physically attacked anyone they suspect of supporting the protest, including some people who were making legitimate visits to lawfully occupied flats, and were therefore not trespassing in any way.
There have been a number of unprovoked attacks on people within the enclosure, with security guards going well beyond any notion of “reasonable force” when restraining/ frogmarching/ dragging them out of the enclosure/ down stairwells/ down from trees and ladders and buildings. They have kicked, punched and attempted to strangle people.
They have stolen items – including a laptop belonging to a supporter of the campaign – and on Friday night criminally damaged a rope ladder belonging to us (after grabbing it while one of our friends was standing on it, with absolutely no regard for his health and safety).
Although we have filmed some of these incidents, we haven’t captured them all on camera because in some cases we were caught unaware, or because these things took place in dark corners to isolated people, or because we only have a limited number of cameras at the occupation.
Call-out for cameras! And for solidarity action!
Rather than asking supporters to come along to Lambeth County Court on Thursday morning, we are instead calling out for a demo around the estate itself on Thursday evening.
In solidarity with the remaining residents trapped behind the fence.
Eviction Eve Demo on Thurs 2nd April:
Gather from 6.30pm onwards at the western end of Burgess Park
(the main gate onto Camberwell Road, near the tennis courts).
We will move off at 7pm sharp!