This is a report from participants in the successful eviction resistance in Bristol on 13th June.
Soon after 6 in the morning around 30 bailiffs from GRC turned up at a site in St Werburgh’s with a JCB to do the dirty work of making people homeless. The people squatting the land and over 100 friends and supporters had other ideas. Here’s how it went.
Now as we all know, all bailiffs are total scum, but GRC bailiffs have a reputation for being the worst of the worst. They have repeatedly shown how they enjoy hurting people and mixing work with pleasure. There are undoubtedly far right thugs in their ranks, enthusiastically honouring the age old tradition of fascists doing the dirty work for the bosses and landlords.
On the other side stood people who had found their housing solution, living in vans and trucks on a large piece of disused land which had been empty for a decade or so. Travellers and van dwellers need safe sites and self organised housing makes even more sense during a pandemic. You’d think the same would be true of not evicting people during a dangerous virus outbreak, but when has what’s right ever mattered for the rule of property and the law that protects it?
So the GRC heavy mob started with their trademark violence, shoving and dragging people around who had gathered at the gates to stand in their way, and using their boltcroppers dangerously close to the hands of someone who had bravely wrapped their arms around the gate chains from inside.
Even as they started to win the struggle for the gates, a site defender hopped onto a van blocking the way. As they used their JCB to pull down one of the gates, another golden opportunity was spotted. A quick bit of old school “digger diving” saw the JCB converted into a climbing frame, out of action for the rest of the day. Another tidy and solid little barricade, this time provided by GRC.
And the problems just kept on coming! More and more people arrived throughout the morning to show solidarity and actively defend the site. GRC did the best they could, clumsily moving a couple of caravans and assaulting residents, all under the watchful eyes of a half dozen cops clearly intent on non intervention. When the police arrived they were presented by the ass kissing, lying through his teeth, top bailiff with the “paperwork”, producing quote of the day from the head cop, “This looks a bit informal”. Never mind, just crack on and crack some heads. Despite people repeatedly screaming that it was an illegal eviction and there were no court papers, the police predictably chose their side, the same side as always, and gave it all the thumbs up.
So sometimes you just need the power and strength of the mob that are prepared to stand solid together and fight back. And that is exactly what happened and what won the day. The day saw that perfect and uncontrollable mix of pushing back hard and partying in the face of organised thuggery.
By midday, as the balance of power shifted, cops began to tire of trying to talk several people down from the roofs of caravans and diggers, and the street party kicked, the GRC bad guys sat and stood around looking red in the face, demoralised and exhausted.
It just got worse for them throughout the day with relentless berating and mocking from the crowd. All this takes its toll and it must be tiring and dispiriting throwing your weight around to no effect. So as the site crew cranked up the volume and victory danced around them, there were some very lost and awkward looking big men who clearly would’ve rather been somewhere else. Some were probably vexed at missing the right wing demo in town. Who knows why they didn’t call it a day; the mix of money and macho pride is a strong one.
Despite taking out their frustrations in bursts of attacking people, again with no interest from the “keepers of the peace”, and threats of violence and future revenge, the bailiffs knew they were losing.
In one memorable moment the big men were suddenly very hands off and scrambling back to physical distancing after pulling one resister’s trousers down in a vain attempt to stop him climbing the site wall. And the crowd went wild! Resistance is sometimes cheeky you fuckers. Get used to it! The mob was too unruly, courageous, determined and solid together.
As the day went by the police strategy became clear – set up cordons allowing people to leave, but not return, to reduce our numbers to the point where they would feel able to attack. Of course, several determined people still found ways in, but there’s no doubt it had an effect.
In the final act, as darkness started to fall and large numbers of cops began arriving, the crowd sprung into action, getting the gates back up and barricaded, despite the best efforts of the cops. GRC had clearly had enough, and left site in a hurry, leaving a sea of cops in riot gear outside the gates (and surrounding the digger) in a tense standoff with a determined crowd inside.
After the police climbers finally removed the JCB occupiers it was nearly midnight and the authorities had to call it a day, withdrawing in defeat. Cue triumphant and jubilant scenes as the road was reclaimed simultaneously by resisters hopping the wall and those who’d been on the outside of the police cordons, and the soundtrack to victory continued.
This was an absolutely awesome show of what we can do when we stick together, think on our feet, and take no shit from the forces of property and authority. We are so proud of being part of such an inspirational and powerful example of direct action, standing together in solidarity and winning. Respect to all the squatters and the site defenders! Plenty more where that came from.
There were 4 arrests on the day and Bristol Defendant Solidarity is appealing for witnesses. Let’s stick together and support those facing charges for being in the right place at the right time! This is all of our responsibility. If you witnessed any arrests, bailiff or cop violence (or know someone who did) please contact BDS: email@example.com / 07510 283424 (as always, be careful what you say by phone/email; BDS can arrange a meeting in person if need be).