approx 90 people present; meeting started at 19:50
Literature distributed during the course of the meeting included:
people's news service No 43
West Hampstead Squat News No 1
LEB 26 Defence Poster
Literature sold during the course of the meeting included:
Meetings & Pickets mentioned included:
31 Jan 3.00pm - picket of Islington Housing Dept -
227 Essex Road
31 Jan 6.00pm - LEB 26 Defence Committe meeting - 207 Railton Road
1 Feb 7.30pm - public meeting on LEB 26 charges - Central London Poly, 115 New Cavendish St
3 Feb 5.00pm - Homelessness Committee meeting - 220 Camden High Street
3 Feb 7.30pm - All London Squatters meeting - The Roebuck, Tottenham Court Road
5 Feb - picket organised by LEB 26 Defence Committee - Ergon House
8 Feb 2.00pm - Walterton Rd vs. LEB verdict - Court No 1, Marylebone Magistrates Court
8 Feb 8.00pm - Homelessness Committee meeting - Waterloo Action Centre (opposite Old Vic)
26 Feb 7.30pm - full film of Centre Point occupation - Lambeth Town Hall
A: We gathered at Kensington Gardens, and there was a quick briefing. We were hustled a bit by the park police, but there were no official police there at this time. We didn't take the coaches, but decided to occupy the Notting Hill LEB Office. Once inside, a group of people went to the back door and made it secure. The idea was to barricade ourselves in, and then to speak to one of the senior officials of the LEB. Two policemen had got in at the same time and they started to hastle the manager as to whether he wanted us in or not. The manager wouldn't give an answer, and the two police left. We then barricaded up the front door. Upstairs there was a balcony, which could be accessible to the police. There was one customer inside the LEB offices, but he wasn't antagonistic, in fact he seemed to be on our side. People started putting questions to the manager. By occupying the showrooms we got two senior LEB officials to come down to the LEB offices. The first policemen there were local neighbourhood bobbies. The first two said it was a civil matter and left. Upstairs there was a storeroom and an awning overlooking the street. One or two of the policeman [who arrived after the first two had left] tried to enter the building by being heroes. One tried to get through a window. Round the corner on the parapet were twenty other policemen, who were presumably acting under orders as they didn't seem to know what to do. We got rid of the first policeman who got in, a sergeant, and he said he'd do us for Grievous Bodily Harm! Four policemen crept about and unscrewed the frame of one of the windows, and the same policeman, perhaps with an eye on promotion, dived through the window. But the window had venetian blinds, which were well secured, and he got caught up in them. Meanwhile the police outside with truncheons drawn were trying to come in after him. We cut him down otherwise he would probably have hanged himself.
Our first mistake?
A: Well probably... we're mostly humanitarians. Altogether eight policemen got inside the building. We finished our negotiations and said we wanted to leave The sergeant said he was going to arrest four of us outside the building, so we linked arms. Meanwhile the people in the street outside [supporting the occupation] were becoming perturbed. When the LEB officials arrived everybody moved back away from the door, including the police. Ten minutes before everyone came out, the police tried to push everybody back, and they arrested some people. From inside we could hear the people outside trying to rush the door, but this was thwarted by the police. The thirty or forty of us linked arms and tried to leave. This was difficult because of the electrical machines, and also there were about a dozen policemen pushing round the door, so they were able to arrest us singly as we left. They used the Special Patrol Group. Now we have a Defence Committee.
B: Can I make an assessment? 1) the Prepartory Committee did its job ok; 2) there was no communication between those inside and those outside the building; 3) constant surveillance of the police is necessary - the unscrewing of the windows took us by surprise; 4) we were outwitted by the police tactics - when the LEB officials came the police were allowed to take command.
The nature of the police action was extremely aggressive. They hadn't been asked to enter the building. / I talked to an LEB official a few days later. A senior LEB official gave permission to the police to enter. / Inside, the LEB officials gave an assurance that there would be no police action etc. / Our actions were defensive; the police's actions were aggressive. We should change this and stick together more. / We made the mistake of being naive and of playing it straight. There were positive things about the action. Inside, it was well organised. We had good media coverage. One of our aims was to get publicity and we achieved it. It was negative in that 26 people got busted. / Not necessarily; we are being educated by the arrests. The Defence Committee is doing a lot of hard work. For those who took part it was very good. / Did anything concrete come out of the negotiations? / The officials said they'd look carefully at both the general situation and specific cases. And they said they'd communicate with us via the Paddington Law Centre, but that they'd wait until after the Court Case.
(A report was given at this point, of progress made in attempting to get support from the Electrical Trades Union, as the speaker had to leave early.)
C: Last Thursday I went to a TUC [Trades Union Council] meeting, which is higher than the ETU [Electrical Trade Union] branch meetings. We were a bit late getting there, so I couldn't put the case to the whole meeting. We handed out leaflets, and spoke to about half of the people there including the chairman and the secretary. All the people I talked to were very sympathetic. We were given details of the local secretary, who will give us addresses of local shop stewards in the LEB. We will also get details about the meetings of our three local branches. The shop stewards are the ones with the power. I will eventually get through to the LEB at Notting Hill. You can read about the meeting in the latest edition of the PNS [people's news service].
Can you come to the meeting on Friday, and bring any workers too?
(The Court Case)
D: Walterton Road v. the LEB. (brief resume of the situation - see previous minutes of 4th Jan for details) We tried to bring pressure on the LEB in every way possible before the case. The case was heard on the 14th of January. At the start of the case the magistrate asked the counsels to go slowly as he'd only been asked at the last minute to take the case. It turned out he was a lawyer. Usually magistrates are biased and totally ignorant. At least he was not totally ignorant. This quite pleased our council as his argument was complicated. Why was a lawyer asked to take the case at the last minute? As the case is likely to go to an Appeal Court, it needed a good magistrate. The LEB took a hard line. They had never been brought to court before for not supplying electricity, and they were upset. They intended to get damages if they won. Their arguments turned on 1) the fact that the squatters were not occupiers, and by law they only have to supply to occupiers; but they have said before that they are only interested in the bills being paid and that they don't discriminate between applicants; so in court they reversed this policy; 2) that they would be committing a civil offense if they disobeyed the GLC's [Greater London Council's] refusal to let them enter the property to reconnect the supply. In other words they were prepared to commit a crime in order to prevent a civil offense! The magistrate adjurned the case sina die. The next hearing was fixed for the 8th of February 2.00pm No 1 Court, Marylebone Magistrates Court. Our barrister says we have a 50-50 chance. One of the possibilities is that he could give the verdict to us, but not offend the LEB by discharging it as a minor offense. When we get the decision we have got five or six days to decide what to do. If we lose, it would not be a decision binding in other cases; but in the Court of Appeal it would establish a precedent.
If we get a negative decision, the LEB will feel justified in what they are doing. / But they can only continue if the owners give directives. / But they will. / The feelings of our local Labour Party are that it is the officials within the GLC, and not the GLC councillors, who are behind this.
D: We have had a meeting with the GLC officials, and they were very concerned with the publicity they have been getting. They asked us 'to be nice' and not the usual 'squatter-type person'. We told them that they were confused by incorrect stereotypes. Then they told us that they would recognise us if we formed ourselves into a housing group, and we said that we were prepared to do this. Agreements were tentatively made. Two days later we received a letter saying they'd withdrawn their prohibition to the LEB. So for Walterton Road, we have achieved victory. But the original letter they wrote to the LEB has not been withdrawn generally. Therefore we must go on. We also discussed being given houses to squat, but this wasn't satisfactorily resolved.
The developments since the court case are interesting. Are they relevant to the Court's decision? / We need to go ahead to stop this sort of thing as it is likely to happen again in other areas. / Is it worth withdrawing the court case to avoid the Appeal Court? Is it possible? / (opinions were divided on this) / But the position in practice is that the LEB still has the letter from the GLC giving them a reason not to reconnect supplies. Do we appeal or not? / This should be decided after the court case. / The delgate meeting decided unanimously to procede, and that after the court case it would have another meeting. / The overriding authority of the movement is here, and it shouldn't be bound by unrepresentative meetings. / Much more time than we have now is needed if we are going to discuss it here. / We delegated power to the Committee. / This is not so. /The crucial decision should be taken by as many people as possible. / The one case that was taken to appeal, Thornhill Square, resulted in Denning's decision on trespassing. Public opinion is more important than the law. We should try and withdraw the case. / We should leave the decision to the group delegated by the last meeting. / If we don't need to go to law then we shouldn't. Most of us here are communists of one sort or another, or anarchists of one sort or another, or freaks of one sort or another, or a mixture of all three. We don't give a monkey's fuck about the law anyway. It is good to threaten them with their own medicine sometimes, but generally, no. If it goes to an appeal court everyone will know about it, and if we lost it, all sorts of other squatters are going to be banged by landlords who at present don't know anything about it. / But the weapon is already there. / It has been for two or three years.
(there now followed a confused period of emotive argument during which several attempts were made to vote on different motions, one of these finally being successful, resulting in a comically karmic compromise)
Should we procede with the LEB action? What is the power of delgated committees? All decisions relating to the ALS should be taken here. / But this is a separate issue. It shouldn't be discussed now. / But this has to be decided first. / Can we have a show of hands please as to whether we should continue discussing the LEB case? / We should have an ALS meeting to discuss the principles of decision meeting, and also whether delegate meetings' decisions are reversible. And also should this specific decision about the LEB case be reversed? This must be decided before the 8th of February, after we have seen the barrister, to find out whether it is possible to stop the case. / We make things difficult. We can't enforce our decisions on other squatting groups. If we start getting organised and having delegated committees, we will soon need an opposition. / We have already accepted that the decisions are non-enforceable. We wanted you to take part in our decisions and we suggested a separate meeting to which you were invited. / Delgated committees are answerable to this ALS meeting. / It would take too long to decide this now. All we ask for is another meeting. / Can we have a straw vote to find out the feeling amongst us? / The motion is that Maida Hill is instructed to report the ins and (shouts of "No") outs of the court case (etc)... and... delegate... (etc). / Who's in favour? / I put a counter motion. / The motion is that they should report to the meeting on Friday... (chaos for a few moments) who's against? / (a majority seem to be against) / Who's for continuing legal action? Who's against legal action being continued? / (there are 25 votes for the motion and 25 votes against... tumultuous applause follows this result) / It's my electricity too. / Shut yer fuckin' hole. / Can we discuss it on Friday? / Yes. / If there's something that people think is crucial, maybe we should have another ALS meeting today week. (carried) One point is, should someone go and see the manager to see if the room is free? / (this is done) The room is free. The meeting is fixed for February the 3rd 7.30pm. / Can someone open the windows please? (this is done) / Are we asking Maida Hill to ask their barrister to find out whether they can stop the case? / Yes, we've already said that.
(The Defence Committee)
E: The Defence Committee was set up by the 26 defendants to launch a campaign 1) to force the LEB to supply electricity; and 2) to get the LEB to drop charges against the LEB 26. Public meetings have already been organised, and we've agreed to try and get outside support. Groups we already have support from include the London NALGO [National Association of Local Government Officers] Action Group, ETU members, Technical Colleges, branches of the National Union of Students, the Norwood Labour Party etc. The platform is 'Electricity for everyone'. So bring along any contacts who can provide support. At the last meeting it was suggested that we should have a peaceful picket of Ergon House on Tuesday the 5th of February, and a picket of the Court on Friday the 8th of February when the verdicts are being given. We have produced a broadsheet which will be ready tomorrow. So if someone can come from each squat to 35 Great Western Road after 5.00pm tomorrow [January 28th] to pick them up. On Thursday the 31st of January at 6.00 pm there is an LEB 26 Defence Committee Meeting. Also if we can, we are going to produce a handsheet.
Islington are taking up the issue with the local council and are having a picket at the Housing Department, 227 Essex Road, 3.00pm, about the question of electricity supplies. We would appreciate any support. / It is important that we should all work in our own local areas. Local councils also play a role in directing the LEB to cut off supplies. In Arbour Square in 1969, there were a lot of children there when this happened, so we just dumped them on the Town Hall steps, and the next day the electricity got turned back on and each family got a sack of coal. / Maybe we should all dump our kids on the steps of County hall and collect our sacks of coal.
I got pamphlets through my door. They took a middle line, though the only people I saw taking a middle line there were the police. / I think that they originated from the 'Rising Hill Bookshop'. / But they have my address. / They have access to all the mailing-lists. / Was anybody here inside?
F: Yes, I was. There were a lot of people from Brixton. We were critical of what went on. We said we'd go along because we believed in the overall thing. There had been a committeee set up to run it. But we didn't know that the committee would be authoritarian. I suppose it was inevitable as it had been planned for nine months. Therefore our criticisms were received personally. We pushed for collective decisions, but this didn't happen. It was impossible to stay in, even though some of us wanted to. The building would have been too hard to barricade effectively. The police could have come in any time. It was only because there were middle-class professional organisers that the police didn't come in. We don't think it was counter-revolutionary because of the effect on local people who agreed with our actions. It was good experience for the people who wnt in; they all had different ideas. It was impossible to remain there. There were so many difficulties. It was a horrible feeling being protected by the police, hearing friends shouting for us to stay in. Jim Radford went too far with liasing with the press etc. Thirty-seven families moving in would have been very difficult. Perhaps it is possible now.
People are criticising what happened after people went in. Jim Radford managed to put squatters down quite well. / Even so, 'Squatters take over Centre Point' were the headlines in the press. The support may have been for the wrong reasons, but squatters still got support. / Jim Radford was misquoted. He didn't say 'We are not squatters', he said 'We are not squatting the building; we are occupying it'. / Jim Radford was seeing Harry Hymes during the occupation. / Harry Hymes wasn't bothered about the occupation at all. / We had lots of support. At one stage we were even worried about the Tories sending us a telegram of congratulations. / This is something that the Tories and the National Front can quite easily support. This was made possible by the leaflet put out by the Committee at Centre Point. / Everybody inside realised this. / It is almost possible for me to feel sorry for Harry Hymes; he is becoming the unacceptable face of capitalism in Britain. / Poor Harry!
F: At Lambeth Town Hall on the 26th of February at 7.30pm, the full film that was made of the Centre Point occupation will be shown. The committee were worried about the risk of conspiracy, but I don't think anyone else was.
Could the flats have been occupied? / We had no furniture etc. / What happened to the homeless families that went there? / I think that they were sent to a squat in Walthamstow. The occupiers exchanged telegrams of support with the miners. / Outside the building after the occupation, people said 'Well done!', 'Squat the flats!', and 'Stay in!', and this just about sums up what happened. Did the occupation of Centre Point do anything for the homeless? No. / I don't know about that. / Well, could it have done more than it did for the homeless then? The Committee relied upon public opinion to persuade people etc. But the way forward is to rely on the movement as a whole. And the Centre Point occupation didn't. / They should have asked homeless people and trade unionists to come to Centre Point and seen what would have happened. / We could have taken over the 36 flats. There were lawyers there who could have made statements that the police couldn't evict them without Court Orders. Homeless families could have moved in. / What can we do now? / The police would not have been acting illegally in evicting people if they had had the owner's permission. Why didn't you take over Centre Point? / There is no discredit in what I said about individuals. We can use the publicity. / You should do something in your own local areas. / We are. We are squatting. / You fucked up other people's plans for squatting Centre Point. / All you've done is occupy an LEB place, get beaten up, and charged; and now you're wasting time and money trying to get out of it. / You can't compare the occupancy of an LEB office with the Centre Point squat. / The fact that they occupied Centre Point illegally and got support, and that they are middle-class people is good. But the pigs were very polite to them, because they knew that the people in there could cause trouble. After they had left the building and when the media had gone, the police got heavy. / In a public meeting in Camden Town Hall when they were discussing the compulsory purchase of Centre Point, the QC representing Hymes' interests said 'the children of the families will run riot all over the building'; and the councillor said 'The people that we will put in, the children of families of that quality don't do that sort of thing'; the QC: 'What about the rubbish?'; the councillor: 'That shouldn't be a big problem, apart from the champagne bottles possibly'. It was fatuous.
G: At 2.30pm this afternoon, fifteen people took over three flats in Greencroft Gardens, which is near the Finchley Road tube. Two of them belonged to Crestwood Properties. They are luxury flats. We hope to have people living there permanently tomorrow. The people who are there at the moment need support from others; and also we need people to go and live there. A lot of the tenants are in support of our actions, and they propose to give us the keys to twelve other empty flats. The secretary of the local tenants association supports us, and she is the one who gave us the other twelve addresses. We are going to talk to the other tenants. Anybody who wants to move in, could they call at the ground-floor flat, 62 Greencroft Gardens.
Over the next two years, there are going to be a lot of houses and hotels standing empty in Bloomsbury. / There is also an empty property in Willoughby Road.
(there is a brief pause in the progress of the meetingas the issues of money and the next meeting are sorted out)
Can we send some glasses round for donations to the cost of the room? / All previous meetings have been preceded by notifications using the mailing-list. Should we do so for this one? And if we do so, who's going to notify people? / We will. (Hemmingford Road, Islington) / If anyone knows of any new squats that want to be put on the mailing-list, they should ring Hemmingford Road or Hilldrop Road.
People's News Service
H: We need news to be sent to us so that we can publish it. If you have news that you want printed, phone us at 733 8652 or come round to 119 Railton Road. In our next issue, we want to put in something about Centre Point, so if any of you have anything to say etc...
(there followed a slightly vague period)
SCH [Single Homeless Campaign ?] and other squatters have formed a tenants or residents association, I'm not sure which, and they have put forward their own plans to take over the whole area from the council and with the help of council funds renovate the area and live there permanently. After squatting there for three years, the people who live there want to take over the area for themselves. / There are whole blocks owned by Freshwater in Pimlico which are empty and ought to be squatted. / We had a squatting movement in Pimlico, and the average squat there lasted three weeks. The people there won't do anything, or even support squatting. They need educating. We just got 113 Orders, one after another thrown at us. / If we all got in one borough, we could cause anarchy and chaos. We could bring down the Council. But because we are operating all over London, we are already doing all we can.
The Homelessness Committee
I: There will be a public meeting at the Waterloo Action Centre, opposite the Old Vic, at 8.00pm February the 5th. We want a lot of organisation in order to initiate mass squatting in different areas. The Committee was set up through the last ALS meeting together with FSAS [Family Sqautting Advisory Service]. It is because of the 1972 Local Government Act which becomes law on April the 1st 1974.
We need to take over luxury places, and with the example of Centre Point highlight public attention on the law change. / We've had the idea of mass squats taking place in every area on April the 1st, but leaks of information will be a problem. Things like this take time. / It takes time to carry out an operation like Centre Point. The Committee doesn't seem to be in touch with the movement as a whole. It is unrealistic to organise a mass squat all over London for April the 1st. / If we start now we'll get it done, but if we wait six months we'll just sit on our arses for five and a half months. / But in Islington we've already got a campaign on, over the electricity, and we haven't got time to do anything else. / But you don't have to run it. / There are no security arrangements, like at Centre Point, in your local areas. It only needs a couple of people to organise it and coordinate it with the local press, and all aim for one date, perhaps March the 31st. The national press can look after themselves. / After Centre Point, people will probably be more prepared to squat. / Why don't we ring up Alan Hargreaves on Capitalistic Radio [Capitol Radio] and suggest he tells people to squat? And we could give him addresses for people to go to who wanted to squat. / We could get places open and keep them going with a rota of squatters until they became occupied by homeless people. / Wouldn't we be throwing people into an explosive situation? / No. If people need places, they'll take them.
J: It came about via Robin Farqueson and the Mental Patients Union. It seems as if associations such as the Mental Patients Union and the squatters face similar problems in a capitalistic society. We have a newspaper coming out on monday the 28th of January.
People's Housing Service
K: We decided that we should set up a squat shop. We should try to negotiate, as we have already done with Mr Hogbin [GLC official]. We need to get houses with long life periods. The GLC offered us alternative accommodation when they kicked us out, but they had a list of terms. We argued that each house was autonomous. One point is that no services would be disconnected. Hogbin told us he'd give us the front door keys. We should get Part IV houses. If we put some hard work into them they can be used by squatting groups.
The GLC have 2500 houses on slum clearance orders, but now they have changed their minds, and are offering them to local authorities, the FSAS, and probably local squatting groups as well. / For general slum clearance, only one house in a row has to have something wrong with it. So if we get some of the houses done up, we hope that we can get it stopped being called a slum clearance area.
(it is decided that the excess money for the room, which has by this time been collected, should be given to the LEB 26 Defence Committee - the previous week's excess money was spent on stamps used for postage in publicising the LEB occupation)
Police & Electricity Busts (Hempstead Road)
L: A week ago there was a raid, and ten occupants were arrested for stealing electricity. The police informed the estate agent, and on getting out [we found] the place had been boarded up. People were released on £75 bail on condition that they lived with their parents and that they should report daily to the police station. The Special Patrol Group were involved. The meter had been by-passed. They had been squatting there about two months. I don't think the original reason the police went there was the electricity.
During the last week, more than 200 people have been charged with stealing electricity. / You can get further information about this from The Guardian. / It could be that the LEB and the police are liasing to attack squatters. / This is another point for the LEB 26 Defence Committee to take up. / There is a chance that we can put pressure on the GLC to revoke the original letter that they sent to the LEB. If anyone has any correspondence between the GLC and the LEB, we would be grateful for a copy of it. / I was arrested at the LEB occupation and I arrived at court late. A couple of days later, four Special Patrol Group police came to where I was living and said they had a warrant for my arrest. They wouldn't show it. They were very heavy. I made a complaint at the local police station, though the police were very reluctant to accept it. A few days later, I went down to the Social Security, and the local police came in, after I had been told to wait. They said they had a warrant for my arrest, and kept me there, and wouldn't let me see anyone. Again they did not produce a warrant. I put in another complaint about this incident too.
(the meeting broke up at this point as the time was 10:45pm, and the pub
was closing up)