An autonomous squatter’s café that provides free ‘pie’n’mash’ meals to local people has been given 24 hours to close or face eviction by Lewisham Council, a week after ‘fascist’ thugs attacked the shop front.
The activists and squatters are to be evicted from their Deptford High Street base after a court ruled that the squat, and subsequently Pie ‘n’ Mash café, was not legally allowed at the premises.
Pie ‘n’ Mash has been running for over five weeks, serving the local community. The café was established as an anti-gentrification movement to protest against Lewisham house prices and wider council failures. The squat operates an open door policy, letting everyone come to socialise and eat for free.
The court eviction ruling comes within a week of the Deptford storefront being vandalised by two individuals; smashing the window to the squat and trying to kick the main door down whilst purportedly shouting far-right slurs.
Speaking exclusively to Eastlondonlines, the collective, which asked to be described as ‘Pie ‘n’ Mash Autonomous Cafe and asked not to be photographed, said: “It was around 1.30am [on Saturday] and these two men started trying to kick the door in and physically threatening everyone in the building. They started to get more direct with their threats and started trying to get the door open.
We managed to hold it closed and put the extra security bolts on, at which point they realised they couldn’t kick the door so they went for the window.”
The collective said the same two men had been in the squat the night before, apparently drunkenly looking for trouble before returning the next night with more purpose.
Members of the squat café were keen to see if other members of the Deptford community had faced similar issues. “We have gone to the local shops, pubs and off licenses and spoken to them about their experiences. Some of them have said they just keep their head down and try and keep out of trouble. Other guys have said they would be really happy to try and create a community awareness group.”
The collective say they are able to offer a service that Lewisham council “could never, and would never, provide.”
Members of the collective said the “doors are open to the people of Deptford. Everyone, anyone, in all shapes and sizes, age or race are coming and feeling like this is somewhere they have a stake in.” Stressing that the squat is a “community project” with over 30 active members on their mailing list.
Pie ‘n’ Mash told Eastlondonlines: “We tried to explain to them [Lewisham Council] that we are providing a free service for them, and hoped they would give us some notice period to leave, however, they’ve got hundreds of thousands of pounds to make deals and they’ve put their maximum force and spend into getting us evicted as quickly as possible.”
Pie ‘n’ Mash claim that as the freeholders of the squat-run building, the council “should have been responsible for keeping this building alive. But they’ve let it become dilapitated and no doubt that will end up being so that they can say ‘oh we have to sell it for redevelopment because we couldn’t possibly fix it up.’”
Lewisham council responded to Eastlondonlines, saying: “Health and safety is always our number one priority. For this reason the current occupation by squatters presents unacceptable risks and they need to be removed from the building for their own safety.”
Lewisham council continued: “Our housing team will support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to put in place a personal housing plan so they can find a decent and safe home.”
Pie ‘n’ Mash argue that Lewisham council want them out of the building at all costs, telling Eastlondonlines: “They want the building right away, even though they won’t do anything with it.”
However, Lewisham council retort this is not the case, saying: “An interim court order to evict the squatters was granted on 13 November. As the squatters remain in occupation a full court order is now being sought to secure and make the premises safe. Meanwhile, plans are being drawn up to convert the upper floors to residential use and to fully refurbish the ground floor shop for lease.”