The police in the UK claim to be neutral enforcers of the law – disinterested machines dedicated to the violent enforcement of the will of the state. This would be contemptible enough, if only it were true. The thugs in uniform that House of Brag has encountered over the past week have not only persecuted us in the absence of any accusations of law-breaking but have actively ignored strong evidence of violent law-breaking which clashed with their anti-squatter agenda.
To take a step back – House Of Brag (HoB) is a small collective of idealistic queers and allies seeking to create a non-commercial space for queer people and activists to organise, network and socialise. A week and a half ago, we squatted a long-term abandoned council-owned building in South-Central London and opened up The London Queer Social Centre with a cafe, free-shop, work-shop, stage, library and events spaces – all free to use for anybody. For context, it may be worth making clear that we have not had any late or loud parties or done anything that could be considered anti-social or a disturbance in any way.
Our first interaction with the police happened on the second night of occupation, the owner of the business renting a unit next door to ours came in the night with heavies and weapons and smashed the outside windows, threatening to kill us if we did not vacate. HoB phoned the police. When the officers showed up they clocked us for squatters immediately and so rather than take a statement, accused us of criminal damage. We told them that we had not committed criminal damage but had successfully filmed those who had. Being presented with video evidence of the accusations they were bandying around, the officers immediately lost interest in this claim and informed us that they couldn’t wait for the law to be changed so they could ‘come in there and drag you out’. Clearly then, we were on our own – so far, so bad.
The next day, we found that our water had stopped. Hours of investigation by us and a plumber friend failed to resolve the situation so we were reduced to transporting water across the road in tanks and buckets from the out-door tap of a kindly neighbour who, of course, said we could take the water that we needed to drink and cook and clean. This regime continued for a few days until our neighbour called by looking quite harassed. It transpired that the uniformed thugs had been round to her house and threatened her, claiming ‘neighbourhood disturbance’ and instructed her to build a box around her outside tap to stop anybody drinking water for free.
Fortunately, we have now resolved our water crisis (with flushing toilets and everything!) but are all pretty disgusted and angry at the bullying, under-handed tactics employed by the cops to persecute us. This is not the end of it. Already we have been informed that the place in which we are living and working is to be taken away from us. Abandoned for years, the council would rather see it rot than house human beings and serve the community. Only the absurd logic of property fetishisation could lead to the establishment spending so much money to harass us and try to crush our endeavours. We are going to fight back. Stay tuned for updates…