Protesters descended on Tesco in Morning Lane, Hackney, earlier today in retaliation to a court-ordered double squat eviction.
The Hackney evictions come just days after an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill was passed. The Bill effectively criminalises the act of trespass in residential property and will make most squatting illegal.
One of the squats due for eviction, at 320 Mare Street, is owned by Tesco, though it has been left empty for a number of years. Tesco bought the property as part of their plans for development, Hackney anti-eviction network claim.
A group of around 50 people made their way to Tesco in Morning Lane where they attempted to occupy the superstore. Panicked security guards managed to stop them entering by forming a human barrier as managers hurriedly closed the entrance shutters, trapping shoppers inside. The protest then congregated in the car park, playing music and obstructing shoppers. Unable to gain access to the shop where their family members were trapped, two frustrated customers shouted at the crowd: “Is it Tesco’s fault you’re homeless?”
After 20 minutes, police arrived to move protesters on. The group then marched along Morning Lane holding up traffic in both directions. A party atmosphere pervaded as people handed flyers to drivers, moving only to let ambulances and police cars pass. The group surrounded a Serco van (an ‘outsourcing’ company) holding up a “resist evictions” banner, before police ordered them to stop.
The march then dispersed, with separate groups heading back to the squats on Mare Street and Well Street, where it appeared that the large crowd had deterred the security firms responsible for the evictions. Demonstrations are expected to last all day, until bailiffs are able to forcibly remove the squatters.
Squatters were reluctant to talk to ELL, for fear of negative media coverage, however some demonstrators agreed to do so under a pseudonym.
Raymond Blake, 23, who has squatted in the past, said: “I think it’s really fantastic that people do things differently and don’t conform to living by the status quo.”
“I think there’s a validity to it, and an element of spectacle which I like.”
Liam Brown, 25, who has friends who squat, added: “As far as I’m aware people are going to carry on squatting. I’m determined to start soon myself”.
The first eviction was scheduled for 9am at 184 Well Street, where approximately 40 squatters and their supporters gathered outside the property. Campaign group Critical Mass joined the demonstration, playing music while protesters handed out flyers explaining their cause to neighbours and people waiting at the bus stop opposite. The Well Street property has been empty for seven years and is owned by Hackney Endowed Trustees Ltd.
Tony, 42, from Essex, rents the launderette underneath the Well Street squat, and has seen two groups of squatters pass through the property over the last two years.
“I’ve nothing against the squatters as individuals. I’ve met some of them and they’re all right people. But I pay my rent, I have a job…. It’s a difficult subject.”
Tony’s business has suffered from leaking water pipes in the building above, which he attributes to the property being left empty for so long by HET who own numerous properties on the street. “At least the building is being used by someone now”, said Tony.
At 10am, protesters walked to Hackney Central to resist the second eviction on Mare Street in a house above a nail salon. No police or security arrived to challenge the occupation of the property, so the group marched around Hackney Town Hall, before descending on Tesco.
ELL contacted Tesco for a statement on today’s events but they have not yet replied.