What follows is the basic agenda, followed by rough notes from each meeting highlighting points raised, ideas and criticisms put forward and general information concerning the different aspects of squatting around the uk.
BASIC AGENDA (of general topics)
1. Builing a stronger network between squats/autonomous spaces (aut. spaces) in the uk.
2. Initial planning for days of action.
3. How can we make better use of squats/aut. spaces in terms of connecting them to wider issues such as increased surveillance, housing problems, gentrification, ghettoisation and the fundamental issues of who controls our land , spaces and ultimately lives.
4. The impact of non-squatted autonomous spaces (ie rented/bought/legal social centres) on the squatting movement.
5. Breaking out of the 'squatting scene'.
6. The impact of drugs on the movement.
7. Repression facing autonomous spaces in the uk and how we can resist effectively.
Saturday: first meeting
What is happening in places in the uk?
BRISTOL: A new squatted social centre is in the process of opening. There is Magpie, a long term squat/autonomous space. The local social centre is Kebele, which has now been there nearly eleven years. It was originally squatted, the eviction was resisted and then the building was rented with a housing co-op in it to cover the rent. The building is now owned, but the housing co-op have moved out as they found it difficult to co-exist with activities taking place. The building now accomodates free space for workshops, a cafe, a library, internet and other amenities. Kebele has also, slowly, become recognised as part of the local community.
NORTH EAST LONDON: A squatters' network has been started in the area around hackney consisting of approx. 11 squats resulting in better solidarity and response to eviction threats. There has been some more social centre organising, with one currently by Lower Clapton Roundabout (info: 07506095491). Ramparts have possibly 2 more months, but have opened a new building.
LEEDS: A few residential squats round Chapeltown, no organised network, no squatted social centres, there is also a partially working 'Common Place' legal social centre
NOTTINGHAM: Sumac social centre (not squatted), a few squats, not many activists. City has lots of potential but needs injection of energy.
EXETER: Not much happening, trying to set up a place for temporary autonomous arts (TAA) and skill share. Big regeneration at moment, lots of empty spaces but not much action.
SCOTLAND: There are squats but they tend to be evicted quickly and legally. ESRA- Edinburgh Squatters' Rights Association.
BRADFORD: There has been a squat on Westgate for 3 years and a block of flats has been squatted down Manchester Rd.
MANCHESTER: Not much squatting happening. There are legal social centres, the 'Basement' recently closed down due to a fire/water damage but there is a gay/lesbian/transgender one and a mainstream/straight one which is a bit of a problem.
BRIGHTON: Very difficult to squat. squats last on average 6 weeks, sometimes can be moved on 3-4 times a week. IPOs (Interim Possession Orders) used more and more (gives cops instant eviction power). Illegal evictions with bailliffs, police or both commonplace. Police have gone on record in local paper saying that 'squatting will not be tolerated in Brighton'. There is a legal social centre, the Cowley Club, bought with a mortgage through Radical Routes, with a housing co-op to pay off the mortgage. Club has cafe, bar, gigs, free English lessons, library, bookshop and internet access as well other activities. Luckily there are two long term squats at the moment.
Tara- Nr Dublin, Ireland: been there over a year, about 15 people on 2 sites. Historical sites threatened, strong local campaign, need more people to help build stockades and fences.
Faslane, Scotland. Punx picnic on 2-4 May.
Rossport, county Mayo, Ireland. Need support. Have good local support. Action camp from where direct action is done.
9 Ladies, Derbyshire- have technically won campaign, waiting on papers. Some of site tatted down.
Bilston Glen- against a road funded by biotech corporations, need more people, council haven't got money to evict.
Camp Bling- near Southend, anti-road campaign, been there 2 years.
Titnore Woods, nr Worthing- against supermarket and urban sprawl, strong local support, 2 camps
GENDER AND SEXISM
Machismo- there is often a competition of male vs male over dominance, sometimes between female. Is this Alpha male/female complex a purely biological effect or is it reinforced by societal conditions?
Is homophobic/queer/transgender 'abuse' a problem?
Does creating 'queer fiendly' nights encourage segregation? Maybe we should focus on anti-homophobic issues instead? However queer fiendly nights allow an expression of their culture not always tolerated by mainstream society. Or, in other words, there is a temptation to ghettoize yourself in order to feel comfortable and fit in with like minded people around you.
Maybe there is not such a problem within the alternative/squatting scene itself, but at free parties when people from outside the scene come there can be problems. How can we educate them and break down these discriminatory barriers?
Ghettoisation occurs on many levels, not just with queers, eg anarchists, travellers. Plus in wider society ghettoisation is occuring more and more, asian, black, white working class and middle class gated communities- we need to bear this in mind.
Is it less about gender and more about role playing? Do certain people take on certain roles in squats- someone does electricity, someone does locks, plumbing, security etc.
But do certain people just take on roles or fall into them- ie does a certain dynamic grow, where people are doing the same jobs because only they have the skills?
To counter this perhaps skill sharing workshops could be an option, or an apprentice approach where people watch and learn locks being changed, plumbing being fixed etc.
Do gender stereotypes take over? Males change locks, fix plumbing, electricity/ females cooking, cleaning etc? How can we address this?
In order to challenge gender/role stereotypes people should not follow the easiest efficient path-i.e. someone does the locks, someone does the plumbing as this perpetuates role entrenchment/division of labour.
THE IMPACT OF DRUGS ON THE MOVEMENT
Both Bristol and Brighton split between drugs squats/creative squats. However, is this true or can a positive squat happen when the squat is filled with munters (drug taking idiots smashed out of their face talking shit)?
Some squats are just party squats and attract bad press.
It can be difficult for families/children to squat because of the presence of drugs.Squatting could be made more attractive to families.
Drugs have divided the squatting scene, or is it that they have invaded all of it?
A lot of people get into squatting through the free party scene and then continue to squat just to party, especially those who have just left home and wish to express themselves and not take responsibility. Is it possible to politicise this element without being patronising?
If squats have a short shelf life, like in Brighton, then there is not so much motive to maintain it by some people and a hedonistic attitude can take over.
There is the problem that some people will come to visit a squat and think, 'oh, it's just a squat' and will get pissed or off their head. This can be a problem inside the squat but more so outside in the public eye.
It is down to individual squatters what they want to do with their space and how they want to live.
Not all squats should be seen as places to go and be entertained.
How do drugs effect autonomous spaces policy wise? How do you, or should you, draw a line on 'acceptable' behaviour, to say 'wait a minute, everyone is getting battered' and yet maintain the ability for people to be autonomous and express themselves individually?
Should drugs be seen as a societal symptom and not just concerned with the squatting movement?
Is there sometimes a difference between the type and quantity of drugs used by the people who break the squats and then those who move in later, or is this a false dichotomy?
NETWORKING AMONGST SQUATS
What is networking? An e-mail list? More meetings?
It should be more than this, it should be active solidarity.
The network in London was created by having meetings once a month. They also have a phone with everybodys' numbers on it, but no names, so that if there is an emergency a text can be sent to everyone.
Having Squatters' dinners, rotating around each squat in an area.
ational network- how can we make it happen?
Create a riseup list in conjunction with an e-mail account which sends no mail but info is placed in a draft folder.
Have 2 national meetings a year.
Make a newsheet of ongoing news from the draft folder in the e-mailm account and distribute as printed or PDF.
News about squatting actions can also be sent to 325collective(at)hush.com and will be compiled on the web site.
What do we want out of the network?
People could work out local/specific skills and network them nationally.
People should be responsible for contacting people/ finding out what's going on, not waiting for news to be sent to them.
There can be problems with communication when living on site.
What is the point of the network?
To be a social movement which threatens the status quo, yet without diluting our fundamental political beliefs.
'Recruitment', getting people on board- facilitating our skills to demonstrate a more valid image of squatting than is currently represented.
Not all squatters represented at the meeting, we need to remember that not all people squat for ideological purposes. How can we get over our political meaning without alienating people?
We should reach out to immigrants/refugees/vulnerable people, but handing out info isn't enough- there must be a support network in place.
Perhaps a local meeting/info point for people to come and get help.
Possibly visit local housing offices and hand out info?
Practical aspects of occupying/setting up a centre were discussed.
What is the effect of legal social centres on the movement? Do they detract from the squatting aspect or are they a good half way house?
It can take a long time to set up relationships with people in the local are, so long term legal centres can be good for this. It means that the centre can be for the local community rather than being moved on all the time and centred on the scene.
There is a danger of cliques/closed groups occurring.
There can be problems with security with squatted social centres, in case the owner turns up.
It is possible to file an injunction against the owner, but only with reasonable grounds- i.e. he has tried to breach section 6. If done file it using someone on benefit so that it is covered by legal aid.
There can be problems if the fire brigade come and check safety. Do a personal public liability assessment covering health and safety aspects.
New social centre london- hackneysocialcentre.blogspot.com
If industrial buildings are left empty for 3 months or more then the owners can lose money on a tax break, so it is in their interrests for them to be occupied. For a commercial property to be lived in it must be partly residential-ie have a shower, toilet and kitchen.
Different ways of occupying social centres are: squatting, squat and then get in touch with owner and get permission, get permission first, rent, or mortgage
It is perhaps better to engage with people on a practical level in the local community and not just on an idealogical level.
Outreach/word of mouth with local community. Ask local community, 'what do you want?'. Make it clear that they have just as much say in the running of things as everyone else.
DAYS OF ACTION
Dijon, France- the days of action concept was thought of and it was decided that people should do things relevant to their own country.
Should groups concentrate on their own area or do a centralised action?
Perhaps lots of decentralised actions as well as a big squat to make a statement, as just one big action on its own would maybe detract from the idea that squatting happens everywhere.
Some kind of manifesto/press release explaining international character of actions, showing that our strength lies in our network/diversity.
Maybe don't concentrate on the press too much so our actions aren't twisted into a publicity stunt.
Is the fact that we have to rely on the press a sign of our weakness? Should we therefore rely on our own alternative press, or is it possible that we can manipulate the mainstream press?
Put any ideas into the e-mail account draft folder.
There is a London wide co-ordination meeting on the 23rd Feb.
Press release will focus on national/international nature and then local groups can add their own relevant details.
People could decide to stay in their own town or a few towns close to each other could co-ordinate.
Possibly a solidarity action around what is happening in Berlin?
Perhaps clandestine direct actions with/without a press release.
SQUATTING AND RESISTANCE.
what successful ways work to resist evictions?
Does it depend on individual situation?
Why should we resist? This depends on personal reasons and this meeting is not about ideology.
Are there times that we shouldn't resist? When it is too difficult to secure the building. If electricity is abstracted and can't be covered up.
There should be less focus on resisting evictions that have been to court and more focus on automatic all round defence in case of illegal evictions. We should defend our space without relying on the legal process.
It is relatively rare that evictions are resisted when due process has been carried through the courts.
As soon as we become illegal in a space, ie after a possession order is granted we move on, when really this is the point where we should be attacking. We should resist because for some of us the point of squatting is to attack the system.
Bigger squats rather than lots of smaller ones may be better option. But what about internal politics? Division destroys our cohesion
If we generally believe that we are doing the right thing and these are our homes then we should be prepared to defend them.
Local support- If the community saw something positive in a squat/social centre and then we defended it, it would look good in terms of encouraging pro-active action and not relying on authority.
It should not be about images though, we should not become just another spectacle.
Is it the building that matters or is it the community that matters?
We shouldn't have an image of the local population being totally apathetic and passive. They may be open to pro-active participation.
We shouldn't be so wary/scared of authority, we should refuse to let the police in. Or does this give them an excuse to use Section 17 of PACE (suspicion that an offence is taking place) to kick down the door.
Supportive acts at the time of eviction in the surrounding area?
Once bailiffs get in should you fight back or declare non-violence?
Police tactics- Psychological: react to the police/bailiffs on their own terms. If they shout, shout back, if they start to be violent and attack the door then proactively defend it.
Have an action plan ready in case of surprise eviction attempt.
Knowledge of the law is not a defence on its own, ie- just because you know the law don't expect the police to respect it. But it is very useful to know your basic rights, like not having to give your name.
However a knowledge of the law is crucial in any form of resistance as it facilitates an area of conflict where tactical advantage may be gained.
We should concentrate on actually defending squats and not fall into the legal game, yet it is important to know some.
If you resist an eviction the first time and the bailiffs leave, then you can't be sure when the bailiffs/police will come back and you will have to stay in the building.
If people actually resist and confront authority they will be more aware of why they squat.
Moving on all the time just perpetuates a transient situation where no connection can be made with the local community. This also causes 'the scene'.
When you have a situation where heavies want you out but have been unable to get in to evict you it can make it dangerous to go out.
In terms of illegal evictions you do have the right to defend the building using 'reasonable' force, but not with a legal eviction where you only have the right to defend yourself.
Resisting squats in UK will give a boost to the European network.
Tactics: Mattresses behind the door frame to counteract kinetic/pneumatic battering rams; braces across doors/windows; trapdoor on stairs with weights (eg- hardcore/rubble) on top; ring in false witness sightings/crime reports to misdirect police to false incidents; use paint bombs;create confusing conditions on the ground for the police/bailiffs.
Use a video camera and get in the cops/bailiffs face with it.
If police confiscate/destroy video evidence go to court to retrieve it. Not sure if entitled to legal aid for this.
Have more than one film/memory card for camera and swap them over frequently so that if the police get one you will still have some evidence.
Turn it from a private situation into a public situation by creating noise/ a spectacle outside. Fireworks?
Press coverage can be beneficial (if represented properly).
Use injunctions against owners if they have used threatening language outside (get a recording).