The 80 demonstrators – many of whom were council housing tenants themselves, and some of whom were disabled or homeless – heard speeches from community leaders and MPs. The protest lasted three hours and was very peaceful, with only three police constables required for security. Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Great Grimsby said: “This is a small demonstration. What we’re saying to Cameron and Scissor-hands Osbourne, the cuts master, is we desperately need more council housing – build, build, build.”
A homeless man who gave his name as Dot 23 is involved with plans for a “radical squatting movement” entitled ‘Squatters’ Response’: “We plan to do a series of occupations next year. We hope to use a variety of models, from totally illegal occupations to more social type things and also hopefully to make a documentary about it.
“There will definitely be some of our occupations in Hackney, most likely be one in Lewisham, we’re talking about one in Peckham – a very large building in Peckham that we’re hoping to turn into an Arts space, a space for performing.”
Anne-Marie O’Reilly, 25 from Homerton in Hackney is involved in Welfare Action Hackney. She said: “We have been fighting councils for two years so the new legislation could be devastating unless we manage to do something about it.”
John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington said: “If we cannot, in the fifth richest country in the world, provide a permanent home in a decent environment, to be honest it’s a disgrace.”
The Prime Minister and Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, have both insisted that new legislation will not increase homelessness. Mr Shapps said: “Any benefits from these changes might take many years, but it does not mean we should shy away from doing something.”