Shoreditch Park is new home for Occupy tents as Hackney starts eviction proceedings

Robbie, Shoreditch Park, pic: Emma-Jane Burgess

Hackney has become the latest London borough to be ‘occupied’ as protesters erected tents in Shoreditch Park after Islington Council removed the large protest camp from Finsbury Square in the early hours of Friday morning.

A spokesperson for Occupy, however, claims that many of the people now at Shoreditch Park are homeless and vulnerable and that the occupation of the park wasn’t a political strategy but: “Desperate people with nowhere else to go”.

The removal of the last 50 people from Finsbury Square followed a legal battle by Islington for permission to evict the tent village. Occupy was denied the right to appeal the order just hours before police and bailiffs arrived in the early hours of Friday morning.

A group moved on to Shoreditch Park and set up a small camp of about 20 tents near the western border of the park. The campsite surrounds a small barbecue area where residents prepare communal meals from donations and food items found in supermarket skips.

The Occupy camp, Pic: Emma-Jane Burgess

Police and park rangers have visited the site and  Councillor Sophie Linden, Cabinet Member for Crime, Sustainability and Customer Services told ELL: “Shoreditch Park is public open space that belongs to the people of Hackney. As with any unauthorised use of this kind we have started the necessary legal processes to move this group on as soon as possible.”

Yesterday the Occupy group said they wouldn’t fight an eviction order as they didn’t believe occupying green space was the point of the Occupy movement.

Islington Council said its street outreach teams and housing officers had worked with homelessness charities to offer support to 48 homeless people prior to and during the eviction of the Finsbury Square.

Councillor Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said:  “A number of vulnerable and homeless people have been living in the square. We have been speaking to them and offering advice and support to those who need assistance.”

Occupy, however, said homelessness charities offered little in the way of tangible help to those in need. One of the Shoreditch park residents, who asked to be referred to simply as “Arthur” said he was told: “You’re not homeless, you’ve got tents”, although he acknowledged: “The system is already overloaded”.

Tammy, a homeless mother of three who stays at the Occupy camp on occasion, has been housed by outreach workers but told ELL that she left three days later after being placed in a mixed dorm room in a shelter.

Another member of the Shoreditch Park camp, Robbie, has been homeless on and off for 22 years but has been sleeping rough around London for nine years during this current stretch.

“I am homeless,” he said, “It’s one of the reasons I joined Occupy.”

He went on to say that he would accept help if he was offered the “right kind of help” but suggested authorities placed people in conditions that were not appropriate. In the past he has spent time in bed and breakfast but had not been found alternative housing by the end of his 28 day stays so ended up back on the streets.

“This camp is called ‘Homeless are us’,” he said, “ we have broken away from Occupy.  We want to try to make awareness of homelessness, not just in Hackney but all across London.”

Arthur, who one of the named defendants of the Finsbury Square camp, stated that the eviction at the square had been peaceful for the most part, but said: “A few people were attached to Finsbury, they had nowhere else to go.”

The Finsbury Square camp was one of the longest running occupy camps in the world having been in place since 22 October, one week after the  occupation of St Paul’s.

A statement on the Occupy London website said: “Thanks to all those who support Occupy, and Finsbury Square. We tried to make a difference, at least we tried.”

Emma-Jane Burgess

Leave a Reply