Tag Archives: Focus E15 mums

Bailiffs’ ball crashed by housing protesters

A bailiffs’ awards ceremony was gate-crashed on Wednesday evening by a sixty strong group of angry people. The action was called just a day beforehand by Focus E15 mums after an eagle eyed member of their campaign spotted the existence of the 2015 British Credit Awards with awards going for ‘Enforcement team of the year’ and ‘third party debt collections team of the year’. A table at the event was £4,000.

Crowd blockades bailiff entrance to fancy dinner

Crowd blockades bailiff entrance to fancy dinner

mattress, arm chair, kids toys, and boxes create a mock eviction to blockade the entrance

mattress, arm chair, kids toys, and boxes create a mock eviction to blockade the entrance

Focus E15 mums, other housing groups from across London, and squatters – all people who regularly confront and are abused by bailiffs – blockaded the entrance with a mock eviction; a mattress, clothes, kids toys, and an armchair were scattered on the pavement obstructing the bailiffs. The crowd of sixty people quickly built up and turned bailiffs who tried to get through them away. “How does it feel to feel scared?” asked one protester to a bailiff. “I’m not scared,” he responded as he called to the police for assistance and had his tux covered in paint. The area was filled with shouts of ‘bailiff scum off our street’ and sometimes simply ‘scum’ each time a bailiff appeared. More bailiffs, and badly placed protesters, were hit by paint bombs. Later on, someone saw a delivery of new suits to the building where the dinner was being held. A line of bailiffs and their friends formed on the other side of the road from the protesters contemplating the angry mob ahead of them.

Finding the entrance blocked, bailiffs queue on the other side of the road. But they're not getting through this entrance

Finding the entrance blocked, bailiffs queue on the other side of the road. But they’re not getting through this entrance

bailiff calling the police for help

bailiff calling the police for help

After a while, the bailiffs were forced to use a side entrance to get to their fancy dinner. Police got pretty scared of the size and mood of the crowd and brought along more cops for back up and police dogs to guard the entrance. When the bailiff flow ceased at the main entrance, a group of protesters went to the side entrance where the bailiffs were sneaking in. At this point, the police made an incredibly violent arrest of a young man with four large police men pinning him down, one police officer hitting the man’s face on the pavement, another punching him in the body. He was kept in this position for around ten minutes with police keeping away people trying to film the incident and provide support to the man.

Police violently arrest and assault a young man

Police violently arrest and assault a young man

Police block off a road to protect the bailiffs

Police block off a road to protect the bailiffs

The police brutality aside, the evening was considered a great success by those of us who didn’t have the £4,000 for a table. A number of us remarked how therapeutic it had been to confront the bailiffs in this way. The energetic and militant action is another exciting articulation of the growing London housing movement; already this year, as well as the exhilarating evening crashing the bailiffs’ ball, there has been the impressive March for Homes and the ongoing Aylesbury estate occupation in Elephant and Castle. The Radical Housing Network’s week of action starts on Saturday 14th February – Monday 23rd. As well as these events, there is the daily community organising by a growing number of local housing action groups across the city who confront bailiffs on the doorsteps, make mass visits to the housing office in support of their members and provide moral support and solidarity. Wednesday evening brought together these groups and squatters from across London, making it clear that we won’t take baliff violence and the violence of the housing crisis.

Cops and bailiffs out of our communities! We all need quality, secure homes that we control!

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Massive Housing Solidarity, Southwark Council Ineptitude            

Southwark Town Hall occupation

Southwark Town Hall occupation

UPDATE 20/10/2014 We heard from Ruth on Monday that on Friday (the day after our occupation) the council had got back in contact with Ruth and offered her accessible temporary accommodation for Ruth and her kids. Although a one bedroom flat for Ruth and two kids is still not appropriate temporary housing. Massive thanks to everyone who came down and supported.

We left Ruth this evening heading to temporary housing we had achieved after a 2 hour occupation of Southwark town hall and a 3 hour wait at the Peckham housing office where we were subjected to the abuse of aggressive male staff members. We had met together at 10am in the morning and had believed the situation had been resolved with decent temporary accommodation for Ruth and her kids.

Unfortunately, when Ruth arrived at the temporary housing, she found out that Southwark council had given her housing that had stairs leading up to it. Because of her disabilities, she could not physically access this accommodation. This is yet another massive failure of Southwark council in their duty to Ruth and her kids to add to the massive list of failures.

This same week, a damning court judgement highlighted some of the issues in Southwark council’s housing department. Cllr Richard Livingstone tried to brush these aside as a ‘one off’ but Ruth’s situation shows similar abuses and neglect from housing officers. We know for sure that these are not one offs but that this is the culture of hate that operates in the housing office.

The occupation this morning saw twenty supporters and Ruth make their presence felt in Southwark town hall’s lobby. The brilliant Focus E15 mums travelled across from East London to offer their support and solidarity. A Spanish housing activist over here for the counter-MIPIM mobilisations also joined. After an hour or so, when the suited officials of the town hall had enough of angry mothers sticking up for each other and telling them to sort things out, and realised we weren’t going to leave until our main demand of decent temporary housing was met, they agreed that they would get Ruth temporary accommodation.

This felt like a huge victory as our group had managed to overturn a negative decision made by the council through our collective direct action. We were told we could collect the keys to the accommodation from the Bournmouth road housing office. We had been reluctant to go there after a previous visit where staff had been rude to us, with the manager shouting in our face before storming off, but we were assured it would be simple and quick.

Two important questions arise – Why did it take 20 people occupying the town hall before Southwark were able to use their discretion to house Ruth temporarily whilst her appeal took place? Since receiving the appeal lodged over a week ago, which listed Ruth’s health problems and that she has two young children, why did Southwark decide they did not want to offer her temporary housing when it was in their powers to provide this?

Why did Southwark Council offer a woman with mobility issues accommodation which had stairs. Is there not a system that looks at the accessibility of accommodation and makes sure that people are matched up with housing they can actually safely enter and live in?

Leaving our awesome occupation at the town hall, a smaller group visited Bournemouth Road in Peckham to sort out the temporary housing we had been promised. Before we even entered the building, the male staff there were confrontational, abusive, aggressive. They had obviously been told that a group of us were coming and decided the appropriate way to react was to behave in this way. We were a group of 4 women and one baby and the male staff were verbally abusive, shouting in our faces, refusing to give us their names, security staff refusing to show us their badges. One physically intimidated one of the women standing close and moving forward so that she had to back out of the building to get away from him. As he did this she informed him that he could not physically assault her in this way, to which he replied ‘I can assault you’. The men then came outside to take photos of the women outside and informed them that they were going to put them on Facebook.

The experience was extremely distressing for all of the women who told the male staff they felt scared and intimidated by their behaviour. We saw these same staff members verbally and physically abuse other women who were separate from our protest as they entered the building. The aggressive, intimidating behaviour of the male staff is particularly concerning seeing as the housing office is a place that vulnerable women,  many of whom may be survivors of domestic violence, visit to try and get help.

Something must be done about the behaviour we experienced today and that is clearly standard practice in the housing office. The joyous feeling of our occupation felt quickly lost as we were subjected to these people in the housing office and had to wait for three hours for temporary accommodation to be found – which in the end was not accessible for Ruth. We made it clear that we would be supporting Ruth until she gets the safe, secure housing she and her family need. We will also be taking on the toxic environment of Southwark housing until something is done about this. The massive housing solidarity today from people across the borough and across London is inspiring and we’re gonna keep on growing!

Guinness Trust residents protest against evictions

 

Guinness Partnership - No evictions!

Guinness Partnership – No evictions!

Some photos of billowing banners and a sunny protest here

On Friday, Guinness Trust shorthold tenants held a loud and lively protest on the estate against evictions and demanding local, social housing. Assured Shorthold Tenants (ASTs) are threatened with eviction and homelessness as part of the estate’s ‘regeneration’. More information here including a tweet button to let ‘social’ landlords Guinness Partnership know what you think of their social cleansing plans.

Over thirty people joined the protest which saw the Guinness Partnership close their office on the estate for the afternoon. The residents’ campaign is supported by Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth and Lambeth Housing Activists. A number of secure tenants joined the protest and a group from the House Of Brag queer social centre in the old Joy shop, who have been making links with local Brixton struggles, came down to support. People played drums, chanted, and spoke with residents and passersby about what was happening to the ASTs.

There was a huge amount of support from the people we spoke with, especially other residents on the estate. On hearing that the Guinness Partnership were making his neighbours homelessness one man said: “it’s wrong, it’s wrong”. Another woman who lived on the estate expressed her anger at the Guinness Partnership’s actions and remarked how this was part of the wider gentrification of Brixton. Talking about all the new shops that have been springing up she asked, “who needs soda bread and ham that’s been cured for 28 days?”

Keep your eyes on this blog, facebook and twitter for more actions as part of the campaign calling on the Guinness Partnership to stop the evictions and provide ASTs with local, social housing. Get in touch with us if you’d like to get involved: haslemail@gmail.com

Focus E15 mums' March for Decent Housing. Photo credit: Peter Marshall, Demotix

Focus E15 mums’ March for Decent Housing. Photo credit: Peter Marshall, Demotix

Then, on Saturday we joined the Focus E15 mums’ campaign and people from other housing groups across London for the ‘March for Decent Housing’ through Newham. Like the ASTs on the Guinness Trust estate, Focus E15 mums are demanding local, social housing after Newham council tried to move the mums out of London into private accommodation in Manchester and Hastings. The campaign saw them win a partial victory as they have been housed in their home borough of Newham, however, the Focus E15 mums are calling for local, secure and affordable social housing for their families and for everyone.

 

Struggling with a housing issue? Angry at high rents, poor housing, and evictions in your communities? Come along to our next meeting, Thursday 10th July, 12pm, Papa’s cafe meeting room, 2-10 Pulross Road, SW9 8AF.