At 1901h the organisers sent out a text message announcing that the police were preventing the event from going ahead. At 1903h, I saw a group of 10 people (who were later identified as "the owners") talking to 2 uniformed police outside the building. I overheard the police saying that if the owners were threatened with violence they should call the police back: they seemed to be preparing to leave.
I spoke to three of the people who had been squatting the building. They described the owners having forced their way into the building earlier in the evening. "They threw bricks through the windows," one said, "we asked them if they had a court order for our eviction and they didn't. This was violent, dangerous and illegal." Another remarked, "The police were there helping the owners, despite them breaking the law. The police said that because of health and safety concerns, namely loose floorboards, it wasn't necessary for the owners to go to court to get us out. This was after the owners had smashed in our windows." One of the squatters was arrested for breach of the peace whilst resisting an attempt by the owners to board-up the broken door, but released soon afterwards. There were no injuries.
One question that arises from this is why the owners would choose to illegally evict the squat at just the moment when it would cause maximum disruption to a legitimate political meeting. Of course it is quite common to see the police assisting unlawful evictions, but did they play any other part in this? Did they tip off the owner that this evening would be a good time to do their dirty work? This seemed like a good question in view of other police actions in Leeds last year to repress autonomous spaces. Police at the scene refused to answer.
Fortunately we were very close to another autonomous space that they haven't yet succeeded in closing down, so everyone went to The Common Place http://www.thecommonplace.org.uk/ to hold the event. Sadly it was not possible to show the films or have the benefit gig because the police precipitated the withdrawl of the entertainment license in July 2008 after the SmashEDO film was shown there. The Common Place was in court 2 weeks ago to try to get the license back, but the result of the appeal hasn't been announced yet.
This story continues as Part 2 - Lessons to Learn from Rossport