Mutually-Assured Distractions

Continuing from where we left off, in media res:

Things haven’t really cooled down here, since. The following Friday, bailiffs from GRC bragged to occupants of a squatted site the night before how: “you lot will be gone tomorrow.” Cue 18+ hours of tense resistance the next day, culminating in the bailiffs slinking off sometime around midnight, concealed behind a screen of cops. Now GRC are particularly notorious (even amongst such sorry excuses for humanity as bailiffs) for being a right bunch of cunts, who pride themselves in specialise in evicting protesters and travelers: full of ex-coppers, rightwing thugs (complete with Blood & Honour tattoos, no less), and (in this case) rent-a-mob part-timers, with little other opportunity for violence during lockdown. GRC are also hated by other bailiff firms because of their tendency to undercut their competitors, seeing as how they have little qualms about illegally side-stepping the court process (after all, they can be sure that their usual targets won’t have the patience or the resources to drag them through retaliatory lawsuits).

There’s plenty to say about the day, but this pair of articles are already getting pretty fat – so why not check out this from BASE to get the full lowdown. Still, we have a top three of highlights for you:

1) Whilst bailiffs had their fun of bursting in at daybreak, handing out kickings like free candy, and dragging people out of their beds by their hair, there was just enough determined resisters present to stop them properly breaching the gate. The resultant stand-off provided an opening for up to 100 site supporters to flood the area (well, saunter sleepily along hours late, in some cases), which led GRC to ring up their friendly neighbourhood cops. Which was a dumb move on their part, to be honest. Although the filth were mostly content to (literally) avert their eyes from the bulk of bailiff violence (including a case where one bailiff slapped a protester’s camera phone from their hand, shoved them to the ground, and caused enough trauma to induce an epileptic fit), the eyes of the law prevented GRC from illegally dragging people off the roofs of caravans, and other such chicanery.

2) In between the cartoon violence and strategic own-goals, the site residents and their friends used the good weather and impromptu gathering to fire up multiple sound systems, and make the most of it. This particular writer doesn’t excel at music reviews, and would probably show their age by writing nonsense about “phat beats”, so we won’t go there – but in summary, the good guys had fun, and the thugs got more and more demoralised and exhausted as the day went on. The residents were joined throughout the day by supportive neighbours, who were horrified by both the bailiff’s knowing contravention of social distancing laws, and their perverse devotion to increasing homelessness during a pandemic. One defender hit the nail on the head when they said “this is probably the only festival we’ll get to, this year”.

3) As well as canny defenders converting caravans into makeshift barricades and scrambling atop their roofs, things took a retro turn towards the 1990s, when resistance members scampered up GRC’s JCB for a spot of what’s affectionately known as ‘digger-diving’. Another high point was when at least one of these folks – clearly feeling uplifted enough by the airy atmosphere – began delivering rousing Hollywood-esque speeches to crowd, cop, and corporate mercenary alike; they exercised the moral highground by posing questions to the lowlifes, like “don’t you lot ever get tired of being on the wrong side?” Or exultations of “this is what resistance looks like!” (I guess you had to have been there). And when, later that night, cops had resolved to arrest the climbers and swarmed around the digger’s base like Mordor orcs, site defenders had other plans: chanting “you’re not getting arrested!” they threw up a makeshift structure composed of scavenged planks and debris, to lean precariously out across from the site wall towards the digger arm, as some sort of bridge. It was probably 50/50 as to whether the two climbers would have braved the dodgy structure, and also as to whether it would have held their weight if they did. Alas, it was not to be, and a spoilsport cop smashed it down, prematurely.

By day’s end, there were four arrests, and more work for the afore-mentioned BDS. To quote the BASE link above: “If you witnessed any arrests, bailiff or cop violence (or know someone who did) please contact BDS: bristoldefendantsolidarity[at]riseupdotnet / 07510 283424 (as always, be careful what you say by phone/email; BDS can arrange a meeting in person if need be)”.

We have a bit of a sorry point to end on, though. What with the urgency of the site threat which dragged on and on, there was only a small amount of energy and bodies left over to monitor the other threat that day: 300 or so rightwingers had resolved to come to Bristol and stop the dirty lefties from taking down the Cenotaph, near the centre. Never mind that we’re in the UK, not the US; BLM over here has generally less beef with war memorials, because they don’t have half the association with slavery when compared to those in the States, which are designed to inflame tempers and celebrate the Confederate legacy. But, you know, why should the fash, All Lives Matter, or football lads let some inconvenient facts get in the way of a good piss-up. Which is what their act became (though, of course, it wasn’t as good as our piss-up).

So, leaving them to it is rarely a tactic we’d advocate, but that’s effectively what happened. Fortunately, about the only damage they did was to their own image, although they did trash the BLM placard display set up the previous weekend, to exchange it with their own litter. They successfully protected the Cenotaph from themselves, but failed to protect other nearby historic sites, like St. Stephens Church, from their own members’ urination.

Edit: three and a half weeks after the failed eviction attempt, the occupants moved on to other sites.

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