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On Wednesday 29th a group of Brightonian squatters received a rather unwelcome welcoming committee at their new home, as three vans and seven car loads of coppers arrived to thwart a suspected bank robbery.
As the residents were settling in on their first day in their new surroundings in the flats above HSBC – sirens, flashing lights and a horde of boys and girls in blue started to amass in the streets below. Though it was explained that the occupants were merely looking for a place to live and not the world's most incompetent bank robbers, the over excited bobbies decided otherwise on the grounds that “you're burglars because one of you is wearing a mask” and “there are special laws about being above a bank” – though they were a little evasive on the exact legislation they were referring to.
The cops scurried to a safe distance to discuss the impending raid, convinced that shortly they'd be kicking in the door, and some hippies. A callout was issued via the Squatters Network of Brighton (SNOB) and within minutes a group of 30+ squatters and supporters arrived – outnumbering and briefly kettling the police presence. Though police backup soon redressed this imbalance and the crowd was herded back across the street.
Meanwhile a cocky inspector and his chubby sergeant sidekick told the squatters that the bank manager was alleging criminal damage and that they either had to leave now or they would force entry and arrest everyone inside – “One way or another you're leaving, I'd rather it was peacefully”. The squatters held their corner and refuted the claims of damage, calling the Inspector's bluff.
About 15 minutes later the Inspector returned in noticeably less bullish mood. Apparently the manager had now revealed that there was pre-existing damage to the window and door, so they would show him around the outside of the building and, if he couldn't find any new damage, the squatters could stay.
Having been given a clean bill of health the squatters received one last visit from the Inspector who explained he actually wouldn't be arresting anyone and he was only interested in upholding the law. The occupants pointed out that had they believed his threat they would now be homeless and that in future he should be less hasty. Visibly annoyed at being lectured by the unwashed masses he left with his tail between his legs to cheers and jeers from assembled mob.
While granted a reprieve for now, the bank will no doubt soon be pushing to evict the squatters from the four bedroom flat which had previously been empty for 10 years.
More updates from Calais No Borders Network
Squatted community social centre and veg shop opens in Lewes.
UPDATE: They finally coughed up. After two days of consistent hassling by activists at the Department for Transport earlier last month, during which one person got nicked, the DfT sheepishly released the previously top secret (read: problematic and embarrassing) documents about the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.
New Squat Law Fails In Court
In solidarity with 235 Sussex University workers whose jobs are threatened with privatisation, protesters from around the country converge on Sussex University's campus (alread site of an ongoing occupation), invade management HQ and make a bonfire out of corporate files.
Anti-cull travellers and squatters plot land seizures.
A staggering five convictions out of the Met Police's largest ever mass arrest during the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
New squatting law forces homeless to sleep in the cold with lethal consequences.