Saturday, 21 February 2009
Squats happening at Twerton Railway station?
Our brave boys in blue distinguished themselves on the 9th of February with a violent and illegal eviction of a squatted property in Twerton, where a small group of locals had occupied a Grade 2 Listed building and begun work to reverse many years of neglect at the hands of Network Rail. Fortunately, this nefarious behaviour was curtailed when British Transport copper 1306 – acting without warrant, permission, or any form of legal authority, following orders from a company with neither actual claim to the property or to direct police activity, ripped the door off and arrested those inside. So, nothing wrong there then.
The lone occupant present at the time was held in custody until the house could be boarded up and all the fuses stolen. Meanwhile, the police kept their prisoner in a cell with no emergency buzzer, and repeatedly denied him access to his phone call, whilst trying to do him on a succession of increasingly bizarre charges: burglary – dropped upon realising that burglars take stuff out of buildings, not in; criminal damage – apparently this doesn’t apply to people repairing and maintaining a building; padlock theft – dropped after the police failed to boltcrop said padlocks away; and trespass – dropped when the CPS pointed out that trespass isn’t actually a crime. Eventually, the would-be homemaker was cautioned on the fictitious allegation of electricity theft. However, having been chucked out on the streets in the snow whilst their clothes and sleeping bags were boarded in, the former residents were heartened to find a ‘help the homeless’ collection tin in the reception of Bath police station… Although shaken by this blatantly political repression, the squatters have vowed to fight on for housing for all and a community-controlled social space in Twerton and have made a great start by.... moving back in! A few days after the eviction, the squatters recoppied the building and set about repairing the cop damage. A week later, the cops threatened another illegal eviction. Locals rsponded with a 15 strong solidarity demo outside the squat, and the police have yet to turn up. So, as we stand, the squat still exists, and the occupiers are happy for friendly and curious folk to pop by (no cops, bailiffs or network rail employees though!). If the building stays squatted, the occupiers hope to put it to good use, hosting community events and providing an example of ways to resist the current wave of repossesions and financial hardships.