On Saturday 7th May 2011 a meeting was held at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair regarding the Squatting Law, the upcoming changes, the impact it has on Bristol squatters and action to take for the future. The meeting, titled ‘Squattastic Bristol’ was an open discussion with both squatters and non-squatters concerned of recent events in Bristol, Brighton, London and elsewhere. Packed into a small room, every point raised in the meeting was respected, and many ideas were put forward. The meeting raised many questions for us all to think about now and in the future:
What is the new law? How does it affect squatters and travellers?
It was explained that the new ‘law’ is to effectively remove Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This would make squatting a criminal offence of trespass, regardless of whether the land or building is occupied or not. So far only 23 MP’s have supported the EDM and it hasn’t progressed beyond this point.
How to deal with police in future evictions?
The main tactic put forward was the ‘Phone Tree’ network, to use during and prior to evictions. The Phone Tree works exactly as it suggests, with any squatters in the case of an eviction sending out texts to any contacts that can get to the squat immediately, and can also forward texts to their contacts; gaining power in numbers and spreading the message in an easy and efficient way. Illegal evictions, in Bristol particularly, have been successfully resisted by these means, with people ‘head-to-toe in black’ acting as a sufficient deterrant to the police and bailiffs.
S.N.O.B (Squatters Network Of Brighton) – gave out their contact number
Following evictions in Brighton, SNOB are now working on expanding their phone-tree.
New upcoming Squat for Bridgwater?
A member of S.W.A.N (South West Anti-Nuclear) mentioned that they are in need of a new squatted social centre in Bridgwater in the near future. The centre would be used as a base for S.W.A.N and further promotion for the Stop Hinkley campaign.
The Media and its role in the Squatting Movement
The question was raised at the meeting, should we get corporate media on our side and do we need them? It was generally agreed that mass media will always be a lost cause, which has been accepted and dealt with through the use of independent forms of media, such as Bristol Indymedia, and we should be focusing on using this more to our advantage and promoting squatting as its rightful way of life.
Following recent events, some squatters are concerned that ‘irrational’ violence towards police does not help the squatting movement. This may be the case, but it was reminded that the media will always be biased, and by condemning those causing violence only encourages the concept of ‘good squatter, bad squatter’, which is not what most people want. Furthermore it lacks understanding as to why squatters feel angry and disempowered to act in such a way, although tactical criticism should always be encouraged. It was also reminded that we should be promoting squatting as a principal and human right, not because of its ‘good’ connotations.
Expanding the Squatting Network
The issue was raised at the end of the meeting, what exactly is our overall strategy? It was suggested that the squatting network is expanded to smaller towns/cities that don’t have a squatting community, but are easily able to gain support by doing so. Alternatively the idea was to focus on Bristol, Brighton and London, by strengthening contacts within these networks, and potentially branching out within these cities.
By expanding the network to smaller towns, the focus would be taken from Bristol, Brighton and London and would symbolise the importance of squatting for everyone – not just those in larger cities. If the squatting community expands, then even more support could be gained for the future, although this can be challenging without enough numbers to support such projects. Other concerns of expanding the network were that it may increase negativity towards squatting by any communties already under threat.
Expanding the network seems a likely plan of action however, especially towards Somerset, with rumours of activity in Glastonbury and future plans for Taunton and Bridgwater. Additional benefits to these rural areas would be the likely support from current and ex-travellers, such as in Taunton, where a phone-tree is being created between squatters, supporters, and the local travelling community.