Everyone agrees- it’s about to explode. Rising rents and shrinking wages, mortgage repossessions and housing benefit cuts, the demolition of social housing to make way for new-build flats for yuppies. Waiting lists for council housing are stagnating further as homeless charities are having their funding slashed. As this situation deepens many will be made homeless and be sleeping on the streets, in hostels or with friends and relatives.
For many people squatting an empty building is the best way to keep a roof over their heads, to be empowered by housing themselves and contribute to and engage in a dynamic, supportive community.
Nevertheless, the current government are close to realising a project that has been ongoing for decades – the complete criminalisation of squatting and occupation of buildings. Current proposals suggest up to a year in prison for someone convicted under the new law. Of course, as many squatters can confirm, we are already criminalised and are subject to intimidation, wrongful arrest, and violent and illegal eviction by police, bailiffs and hired thugs. If we’re to better fight arrest and imprisonment we need to better understand how we can fight them.
The Squatters Legal Network is a group of individuals organising to provide ourselves and other squatters with legal advice and information, workshops, skillshares and arrestee support. We need to organise to meet the challenges that the looming criminalisation will give squatters, but this support is also needed now. A mutual aid network can only be the sum of its parts, so get in contact if you’d like to get involved.
The government want to protect property owners when they keep their properties empty, to speculate on them, to fuel regeneration and gentrification and to profit from emptiness when there are people sleeping on the street. No matter which laws they make people will continue to squat – to house themselves, to create autonomous social spaces and to protest, contest and liberate buildings. In doing so they will face persecution and prosecution, and we must support one another in every aspect of what that will entail.
WHATEVER THEY SAY SQUATTING WILL STAY!
p.s. Follow the progress of the Bill that the current attempt to criminalise squattting has been strapped on to here http://bit.ly/vcIAh0 . The Bill itself is bad news as it plans to cut legal aid for large groups of people, one of whom could be newly criminalised squatters, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.