Squat solidarity! This MayDay squatters from across the U.K. have come together to co-ordinate decentralised actions across the country to highlight our plight and address our needs. Both residential and commercial buildings have been occupied to provide housing for ourselves and the others left high and dry during this time of crisis, and banners have been dropped in support by squats not yet facing imminent eviction. Land has been taken to repurpose for clean open space and food, and food distribution is taking place to aid all who are struggling.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, emergency legislation was introduced and put a stay to all evictions for 90 days. However, it took just three weeks for the judges to surrender to the pressure from bailiffs, landlords and banks, and amend the law.
Squatting cases will continue to be heard via phone, and bailiffs are now again smashing through our doors the way they always have – but this time we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and it’s scarier than ever before.
Evictions make us sick. In both the metaphorical and physical sense. The government that we didn’t choose values landlords’ and millionaire owners’ property laws higher than public health or our lives and the lives of people we love.
We recognise though that it’s not a matter of choosing a “better” government as for us, it ends up being the same. We are a collective of communities living on the margins of society. Some of us are BIPOC, migrants, refugees, queer and trans
people. Some are people living with disabilities, managing various health conditions, healing from trauma and domestic abuse. All of us are building our own refuges, homes and chosen families. COVID-19 has only magnified our already
existing health, housing and power inequalities.
We find further discrimination in the illegal evictions that have taken place in these last weeks, as well as the well-evidenced police harassment of those of no fixed abode or street homeless – despite the lockdown rules not applying to
those without homes. The government plan to house the homeless has proven to be worthless as people find themselves not able to get a spot, or treated like dirt when they do. State provision has already failed so many. Councils are running
out of money, all the while council housing sits empty by the thousands. Specialist services such as domestic violence survivor support and LGBTQI+ housing and support services are fighting to be able to offer much needed refuge.
Meanwhile it is estimated that the number of long-term empty homes in England now exceeds 226,000 (this figure is significantly higher if taking commercial properties into account).
The precarity we face is the same precarity lots of other people will recognise – it’s living payslip to payslip in insecure housing. It’s having little to no savings, little to no social network and sweating to get benefits that barely cover necessities. Government’s “solution” to make receiving universal credit easier and suspending evictions (which will only postpone them) is a temporary fix. It won’t solve the crisis that started way before the pandemic did. Some say COVID-19 is a crisis for capitalism. We say: to be so, it would have to destroy or at least scratch any of the structures that stay exactly the way they’ve been, the way they’ve been designed to be. It’s us – squatters and renters – who get hit the hardest while landlords enjoy their mortgage holidays and property owners fill out eviction papers.
We will not ask permission to find a safe place to sleep and stay alive. We will sleep wherever we can and want to.
Whether in one of the 837272819191? empty buildings or abandoned unused land plots lying around or take up secret corners on OUR streets, if that’s the place we find the most safe. We will survive in the ways we need to and know.
We can’t just see this as a return to “normal”, and like all other aspects of our lives, we need to forge new paths and refuse to be crushed by a crumbling capitalism trying desperately to maintain its grip on the population. Our actions today are not those of politely asking to be reconsidered by the state, or begging to have the amendment overturned.
We’re not asking for their kindness as we already know they’ve got none for us. We acted today because for us, solidarity means attack – attack on the legal amendment and the idea of housing as a commodity.
Demand space to stay safe. Take it if you have to.
Written by: Squatters across the UK