Six beautiful buildings on Rushcroft Road were left in a state of disrepair by Lambeth council back in the 80s. People moved into these buildings, repaired them and turned them into homes. Some residents were given short life licenses for their flats whilst other flats were squatted (the law change that bans residential squatting was not relevant here, as squatters in these flats had a tacit licence from the council). With property prices soaring in gentrifying Brixton, Lambeth council suddenly took an interest in the Rushcroft Road buildings and decided they wanted them back so they could sell them off to private property developers. That these are people’s homes and important public housing, in a borough with massive overcrowding problems, an ever-growing housing waiting list, forced relocation of residents to seaside towns and cities north of London, didn’t perturb Lambeth council who went ahead and ordered the ‘National Eviction Team’ bailiffs, known for being particularly big and violent (and who had brought along their own FIT team with two bailiffs holding small portable cameras and filming people constantly).
Brixton residents gathered on Rushcroft Road from 6.30am to try to stop the evictions. The numbers were not huge, but despite numbers of around one hundred, from the start, people were fucking determined. Barricades were set on fire at the top of the street, paint found its way onto bailiffs and cops (with some supporters getting covered in yellow gloss too), people sat across the road blocking the progress of the cops and bailiffs (“There’s police and bailiffs, it’s just like the old days!” one woman was heard saying into her phone at the roadblock), people blocked front doors as bailiffs charged at them, barricades were put up inside the buildings (a boom would ring out across the street as the bailiffs knocked down doors of the flats from inside the building). Looking back that evening at the days events people remarked what a strong resistance it was from a smallish group. It felt like some fucking feat to have kept them off so long, to have made their job so difficult, to defend the homes as best as we could. Just imagine what we could have done with even more people.
The violence used by the bailiffs and police was incredibly heavy, disturbing and traumatising. As we defended the door to the last building I watched a friend be dragged by the bailiffs over broken glass, people getting strangled, one person on the ground being beaten up, bailiffs charging through the people with a crow bar, police pushing people who were trying to help others away to let the bailiffs get on with their violence. Rows of people were standing in front of the door to stop the bailiffs getting in. Bailiffs charge at doors to knock them down. Only this time they were charging as they would for a door but at people, massive crow bar in hand. I jumped out the way over a small wall in the front yard, and found a bailiff in my face about to attack. I shouted that I was nowhere near the door and wasn’t going to go there and he finally backed off. It was probably the most heavy violence I’ve ever seen – I’ve seen a fair amount of police and bailiff dickheadery. Several very experienced activists said they hadn’t seen anything like this in some time.
It was devastating to watch each block be taken from us, bailiffs tramping in and out, people made homeless, yet more loss of our public housing stock, and the continuation of class cleansing in the neighbourhood. Someone had left some of their vinyl collection outside on a window sill and a woman carried the vinyl down with us, hoping to return them to the owner or someone else who would offer them a home, as we were forced down the street with each eviction.
Two Lambeth council officers turned up to watch people be made homeless. I’m not sure why they thought it was OK to do this. People realised these men in suits were from the council and mobbed them, shouting at them for making people homeless and privatising housing and following them down the street as they tried to escape. They were properly hounded to the end of the street and felt so unsafe that the walked back the way they came to get protection from the police. This was a wonderful scene and will happen more often I hope.
Walking along Coldharbour Lane later on, we met some local people outside a shop who had been watching the evictions. They told us they were impressed and supportive of the fight we had put up against the police and bailiffs. “Is this the end?” one man asked. The other man answered confidently: “This isn’t the end. They’re squatters, they’ll find another way back in through some window…I like anarchists, they love sharing stuff.” We told them about Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth* which is starting an eviction resistance tree for the area to fight every eviction and they were supportive.
All evictions are shit. The law is shit. But it seems that the last building that was evicted was done so illegally. A man standing on the doorstep asked the police for paperwork as the residents had not been given any. Two policewomen mumbled back “we’ll get the paperwork” very unconvincingly. Then they stood back to make way for the bailiffs to charge at the rows of people to the door. When a friend told a policeman he had been hit in the head by the bailiff that was standing behind him the policeman responded “I’m too busy (being a dickhead)”
I think 4 people were arrested. I received a message about arrestee support at around midnight, but I had fallen asleep way before this. It sounded ace though: “Good vibe, local community support and outdoor living room going down opposite Peckham cop shop…”
And a big thanks to the love and solidarity on Rushcroft Road itself, the neighbouring streets, and from over Twitter.
Over the last couple of weeks, Brixton has seen bailiffs get shot at, an occupation and rowdy protest at Foxtons, and the burning barricades on Rushcroft Road. Brixton doesn’t like evictions.
* Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth: www.housingactionsouthwarkandlambeth.wordpress.com
Izzy Koksal (repost)