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Squatting Archive - ALS Meeting (3 Feb 74)
MINUTES of the All London Squatters (ALS) Meeting, held at
The Roebuck, Tottenham Court Road, London W1 on Sunday 3 Feb 1974
approx 80 people present; meeting started at 8pm
literature distributed during the course of the meeting included -
Electricity For All (poster/broadsheet)
Defend the Homeless
West Hampstead Squat Newsletter No 2
Torture in British Prisons (leaflet)
Easy No 30
Picket & March (Ergon House, Feb 5th) (leaflet/map)
meetings & demos mentioned included -
Monday 4th Feb - Mercers Road Demo at Islington
Tuesday 5th Feb - Ergon House Anti-LEB March
Tuesday 5th Feb - FSAS Defend the Homeless Meeting
Thursday 7th Feb - LEB 26 Defence Committee Meeting
Friday 8th Feb - Marylebone Court (re LEB court case)
Friday 8th Feb - Miners Support Meeting (Islington)
Sunday 17th Feb - next All London Squatters Meeting
A: As the meeting was called specifically about the LEB thing, and also specifically to discuss the structure of the ALS & delegatory powers, they should come first.
- Mercers Road demo at Islington on Monday
- Walterton Road vs London Electricity Board (LEB) - Court Case
- Delegatory Powers of Committees
- Support for the Winchester Eight
- Support for the Miners - picket coordination
LEB Court Case
Can we withdraw from the court case?
A: We have invited someone from the Paddington Law Centre to come, but we don't know whether hr'll make it. It is complicated as to whether we can withdraw. It would seem impossible for us to do it.
We consulted lawyers, who said it might be worth trying.
A: We did ask for an adjournment.
As the hearings have been heard, we need the consent of the LEB in order to drop charges. As they have been drawn in, they might want a decision. / Why should the case be withdrawn? / Because we don't know which way the case will go. It needs to be done between the lawyers. / Should we discuss whether we ought to withdraw if we can? / You just don't turn up if you want to withdraw. / The case has already been heard. / I suggest that Walterton Road ought to withdraw as the case can be settled out of court.
A: No, it can't. The GLC [Greater London Council] are prepared to allow the LEB to enter only the three houses which have taken out summonses, and the LEB have not said that they'd supply them.
For the GLC houses in Charrington Street, we asked the LEB to supply electricity, and they said 'show us a letter from the GLC saying we can'.We asked them to show us a letter saying they couldn't. / If the ruling went in Walterton Road's favour, and the LEB were to appeal, and the case went to Appeal Court, the decision would be binding. And if we win there, they will appeal again. / The precedent is already there whatever the House of Lords may say. / But we have influenced Islington to say that they won't refuse permission to the LEB. / The mass activities of squatters will affect the outcome, not a decision from the House of Lords. / It is the GLC that have the most to fear. We are getting a letter from the GLC in Charrington Street to say we can have electricity. / It depends whether moral opinion is on our side. / Can we afford to take it there? At the House of Lords we might get the decision, but it takes a long time; and consider how many children there are in squatting families. The government is using squatters to solve its problems. We are not creating the problem. At the House of Lords the decision wouldn't necessarily be adverse to us. / We shouldn't give landlords a precedent for cutting off electricity. What is the advantage? Only tactical.
A: In the first place we went to court as a focus for organising the struggle. The immediate effect was to get the LEB to suspend its action until after the court case. Mass action forced the GLC to climb down over Walterton Road. Therefore we have had two partial victories.
The focus was not on the Court Case. / It was not victory. / It makes you fight on their terms.
A: This is nonsense. We occupied the LEB. There has been no withdrawal of the original statement. The Gas Board has also done this, and there are other examples where the GLC are responsible for evictions. In going to court we are trying to find out whether this weapon that they're using is illegal. Whatever the magistrates say, it does not set a precedent. If the decision is against us, it doesn't matter. If the decision is in our favour, and they continue refusing to supply, we can say that the matter is being settled in court. If the court case is against us we can't decide what to do about it here. It depends on what the magistrate says. [there are frequent disruptive interruptions from the back of the room] How do we fight the Law? We can not create a new weapon; they've already got it.
At present the way the law is being used, it is not true that they can reverse the trend in legal decisions... viz the decision on picketing in the House of Lords. It would be naive to think this.
A: But we have support from some ETU [Electricians Trades Union] workers, and from others. [more interruptions from the back] We also have support from the Press, and we are getting through to people. We can use it as a focus to get support from others.
Why are you involved in SCH [the Single Homeless Campaign] which saps energy from the squatting movement?
A: I live there and I don't pay rent. SCH has changed quite a lot, and what you're saying is irrelevant, wrong and is nonsense.
[the 'disruptive elements' are asked if they want to move into the centre of the room... they don't] Regarding the weapons argument, we agree that it was a mistake for those squatters in Islington to take their case to the courts, which resulted in Denning's decision. Therefore it is bad to fight in this way. About the court case being a focus, it is better to fight in our local areas rather than pursue it through the courts. It is like saying that we should cooperate with the Industrial Court. / We should have our own courts, and our own decisions and publicise it.
B ('legal expert'): 26 people got clobbered for demonstrating on this case, and if we withdrew, their reasons for demonstrating would be taken away.
In April, lots of homeless people will become squatters, and that will be our support. / The Order 113 situation was not the same; and even with the Order 113 decision, it is not exactly clear. Sometimes it works in our favour. But in the LEB thing, they say they've got the legal weapon, and we are trying to find out if they have a legal weapon or not. / We should aim our attacks against local authorities rather than against the Law. / This is not so. Denning's judgement actually helped us, because many judges disliked it. / A full-blooded confrontation is not appropriate; we need to be devious to get through the barriers. / Going to the courts is action in itself. / It's extra money for the lawyers. / There is no point in taking action through the courts, unless we take action on the streets. / We all agree with that. / Could I ask our legal experts to find out about the legal situation, regarding stopping the case?
B: There is no procedure for stopping it now, while the magistrate is researching the Law Books etc.
Islington came up with a conflicting view. / At Islington, after consulting with lawyers, they said that it was up to the magistrate.
B: If this was possible, and we decided to withdraw, there would be heavy orders for costs against the people who took out the summonses, and the squatting movement would look pretty foolish after all the publicity.
How much would the costs be?
B: It would cost several hundred pounds. And if we don't withdraw, we've got a stronger argument for fighting the costs.
What about telling them about the GLC letter? / That's not the subject of the summons. / The LEB would say the issues were twofold: (i) occupancy, and (ii) refusla for permission to enter. Therefore the LEB would say that it was necessary to have a decision. / We've got a good case. The LEB have made mistakes in their defence, they've allowed deposits to be paid, and they seem to have a stupid barrister. And anyway, do the powers that be want to give a decision against squatters? Only at the lower levels. At the higher levels, they will be afraid of us losing it. / Before the court action, the LEB were told by their lawyers that "occupiers" includes "squatters". / Withdrawing now is a bit ridiculous. There is only one way now, and that is to try and push it as far as we can. There are more important things to talk about here tonight. / It seems to be an academic argument. Any magistrate would rather have a decision. If they win, they can't cut off the electricity to 20,000 people.When a house is squatted, we normally turn on the electricity ourselves, and then we go the LEB, and this will continue. Will the LEB start prosecuting everyone? / They haven't got the workforce to dig up the roads. / The LEB is caught in the middle. / No, they'll be chary of whether the bills are going to be paid. / [a vote is held...] Should we withdraw before next friday or not, presuming it's possible? For: 18; Against:25 - the motion that we should proceed is carried. / What about the march? / We have the leaflets. / Some points need clarifying. We meet at Ergon House. The police know about it, so we need to assemble at Lambeth Palace. Thames TV will be there. So we assemble at 1.00pm at Ergon House, and Lambeth Palace.
[general discussion] About the LEB 26 Defence Committee, I've only been to one meeting, but more people should come. It is small and isolated, and many groups are not represented. At LEB 26 Defence Committee meetings, it might be better if more people are there. / Who is on the Committee? What is its function? Are there separate meetings of the Committee from the meetings of the defendants? / Point of information: are we talking about the delegatory powers of this meeting or about the LEB Defence Committee? / The LEB 26 Defence Committee was not delegated by the ALS. / As one of the defendants, I'm grateful to them for working on my behalf. It's doing a nice job. / This is unnecessary and bureaucratic. They can't have powers. If just the people interested go, then decisions can be brought up at the next meeting. / The reason it came up is because of the last meeting, when people questioned the responsibility of the Committee's decisions. / It should be done on a local basis, not on an ALS organised bureaucratic basis. / Then why do you come here? / I like a drink / But the Committee was set up about the LEB Court Case to discuss complicated matters in some depth. There is nothing sinister about it.
People's Housing Service
[at this point the discussion turned to the problem of the merits, or lack of them, of Ron Bailey, and the type of activity he represents] Ron Bailey represents one branch of squatting. The other branch was the squat at 144. [a reference to the 1969 squatting of 144 Piccadilly, which ended in violent confrontation with the police] We are not beholden to anyone. People just take houses. Therefore we don't need committees. / The issue is not about committees, but about what organisation we use to take the struggle over. The previous speaker proposes an "I'm all right, Jack" attitude. / No. / How many squatters don't know any other squatters?
This meeting is already a delegate meeting in a sense, in that the people here are delegates. / Everyone here is representing their squats. Delegates are needed when there are too many people to meet discuss and debate. We are not at that stage yet. / A delegate meeting has a limit on the number of people going to it. Therefore this is an open meeting. Anyone can come. / I propose delegate meetings should be responsible to everyone. / But delegate meetings are set up because of the length of time it takes to discuss things. There is nothing wrong with committees as such, but what do they do? And how are they controlled? / [there follows a brief explanation and history of the origins of the LEB 26 Defence Committee] The Committee counts itself responsible to both the defendants and to the ALS meeting. The Homelessness Committee was set up to organise a public meeting, which it did.
The only problem that I can see is that there are not enough chairs. But if the number of people at these meetings grows, we will have to hold two sets of London meetings, and hold the ALS meetings less regularly. Information should go out to more squats. Any committee set up should, by courtesy, be responsible to meetings like this. But if it was going to be totally responsible, and if people weren't, then we would need means of disciplining those who were not responsible, and I don't want this. When it comes to court cases and other serious things, they should be brought to meetings for discussion. The movement continually expands. What more do we want?
An LEB 26 Defence Committee meeting organised picketing with the ratification of a previous ALS meeting. / Thereore the campaign is based on these Defence Committee meetings. We are just told of the meetings. / They were discussed at the last [ALS] meeting. / The first duty of the Committee is to those they represent, and I'm quite happy about it as a defendant. / The argument started over the Homelessness Committee. / But I didn't know about the date of Tuesday's demo and I'm a defendant. / Well you should have been there at the meeting. / Should there be a separate Defence Committee? / It is nothing to do with us. / Yes it is.
[a discussion on the nature of the LEB Defence Committee decisions continues, in a somewhat disorganised way] We should discuss pickets. / Why? Are we having another picket now? / It was convenient to choose those two days because they were before the Court Case. / Why are we having another picket? / A picket was thought to be a good way of getting publicity and and making the issue more widely known. / How many people were there at the meeting when it was decided to have a picket? / We want a meeting for anyone and everyone, on Thursday. This is a meeting of the LEB 26 Defence Committee at 161 Westbourne Park Road at 7.00pm. We will try and get information about this to everyone. We need money desparately. Can you appeal for money to help pay the fines of the LEB 26? / No, we are not allowed to do this, but we need money desparately, as much as we can get. / What about money that is given to you to help pay fines: Will you use that? / No. [sarcastic] [the discussion continues for a little while, in a similar vein]
In London, squats have been organised and kept together by individuals. These decisions are for everyone to decide. Everyone must come; if they don't come they won't have a say. If they do come, they have a vote, make the decisions, and they must carry on. At meetings like this, the most verbal people rap most, but people know where each faction is at. As long as this democracy allows you to participate, it's all right.
About the pickets on Tuesday, Islington squatters decided to use the leverage of the LEB occupation to establish a peaceful front with their local LEB. I don't think a mass picket will happen, and I don't think many people will go. / I think other people should be drawn in apart from squatters. I can draw people in from NALGO. [National Association of Local Government Officers] / I expect people to go along. / But Islington squatters weren't consulted.. / There was a representative there, but he didn't say anything. [more discussion takes place in a similar vein]
The LEB 26 Defence Committee should be answerable to this meeting. Meetings should be rotated. / But it's too bad if people who go to the Defence Committee meetings don't say anything, and then start criticising here. Because the Committee was set up as a result of an ALS activity, therefore it is responsible to the ALS. / People are leaving because of the bickering. Can't we be more constructive? / People are not accepting objections.
[there is some argument over whether it is possible to say realistically that one is going to have a peaceful demo] / You can't choose whether there is going to be aggro at a picket. / In the LEB occupation, it was said at the ALS meeting that there would be some difficulty for those occupying the premises, whereas in this one, we've decided before hand to try and keep it peaceful. / In Islington, decisions were taken over the LEB without consultation, but at Ergon House, decisions will be taken that affect all the London squatters. / That's why I'm saying it, because it conflicts. / [a long rambling anti-political speech is shouted out] / Who will be coming and be bringing other people with them? / That's impossible to say. / I presume people will come to Marylebone County Court No 1 at 2.00pm on Friday to hear the result. / The LEB 26 Defence Committee has two functions: (i) to defend the LEB 26, and (ii) to publicise the whole LEB business. In its first function, it is answerable to the defendants, and in its second function it is responsible to an ALS meeting. / [motion and vote] Is it answerable for every action to this meeting? [overwhelmingly carried] / Shouldn't Islington squatters' decisions in their activities with the LEB also be responsible to this meeting?
Where is the march? / To New Broad Street. It is proposed that there is a picket and a march to the LEB headquarters. / How far is that? / About four miles. / You must be joking. / Are the Defence Committee members aware of the Electricity Board's Local Consultative Consumer Councils? Have they been contacted? If you have a complaint, use the Complaints Council. / Where did the Islington squatters write to? / Somewhere in the East End. We signed it "Islington Squatters". We wrote about two weeks ago. Islington Council have changed their policy. If squatters phone the council, for a house where an order has been made not to supply, they will revoke their order to the LEB.
C: We were being evicted from houses in Charrington Street, but we have now been given two houses by the GLC and they have promised that there will be no hassles with the LEB etc
The Homelessness Connittee
D: This was set up to initiate action over the change of law on April 1st. The FSAS [Family Squatting Advisory Service] came along. We put forward the idea of a public meeting. The FSAS said that they had already started organising a meeting, and that the ALS should come in on it. This is the 'Defend the Homeless' meeting next Tuesday, at Waterloo Action Centre, opposite the Old Vic, at 8.00pm. Though the poster has an FSAS label on it, it was agreed that it should be a joint committee.
It will get taken over by the FSAS. / Not if we go to the meeting. / But they have the time; we haven't.
D: We will ask them not to set up a delegate committee.
But at a similar meeting, they only accepted the committee which they wanted. / We must stop them doing this. In the FSAS, the Bailey-Radford image is no longer relevant; it won't happen. There are people within FSAS fighting this image, and if people from here go to this meeting, they will stop this happening, and the floor can take over the meeting. The ALS shouldn't let this happen. / Why doesn't the ALS decide whether we want to do anything re April 1st? And if so, what? And if so, organise it ourselves. And if we need support from the FSAS, we can ask for it. / There are new people in FSAS, and there are new criteria for membership. Therefore it won't happen, unless we let it happen. / FSAS did get in Centre Point, [tightly organised token squat of empty tower block in Central London] and they have got the support of the media. At the last meeting it was decided on something like a National Squat Week re April 1st. This must be done at the weekend before. From March 5th to March 30th, the Ideal Home Exhibition is on. / We would get support if we approached this in the same way as FSAS, but we should approach it in our own way. / We should get every area to do its own thing. / FSAS will have a worked out approach. / But they have differences within FSAS. / I propose that the ALS call for a National Squat Week. / Every week is a squat week. / I know, but we don't get the publicity. / But this takes attention away from the Law change. We must stay there and fight and make them go the courts to get us out. / We should squat for keeps and not for protest. / Yes, do it for keeps, and emphasise the change in the law. / In Euston Tower, there is Radio Capitol. If we take it over, and say "this is....; if you want a place, phone..." / That's your number!
Who is going to call the next meeting? / You'll probably think it's a plot, but Maida Hill will do it. / In three weeks or two weeks? / [different arguments are put forward - there is a vote] Three weeks: 13; Two weeks: 20. / So if people can get stuff to Elgin Avenue before Monday 11th, we'll mail it. 19 Elgin Avenue; phone: 286-2186. The next meeting is on Sunday 17th February. If anyone knows of anything wrong or missed out from the mailing-list, can they send it to Elgin Avenue, as there have been several different mailing-lists circulating.
The Winchester Eight
E: A Joint Action Committee has been set up. Can the ALS vote its support for the camapign?
[there is a vote which is overwhelmingly carried in support of the motion] Do we send them a message or something. / Yes.
Support for the Miners
F: There is going to be a strike, and there will be many pickets in the cities. If anybody wants to put up miners, or help, or get involved, can you come to 11 Hemmingford Road, Islington, this Friday at 2.00pm or ring 937-3997.
That is the same time as the Court Case.
F: People could write or call in. The miners did exchange telegrams of support with the Centre Point occupiers. If the miners' strike gets off the ground, there could be a general strike.
Are you suggesting that every squatting group should put people up?
Well you should be; and perhaps anti-eviction squads could act as flying pickets. / Have you had any contact with the NUM? [National Union of Miners]
F: No, but we've had contact with individual miners. If you write, we'll give you an alternative time for a meeting.
How many people are going to Friday's picket? / I should imagine quite a few. / If there was a big strike situation, we as squatters should do more than just support the miners; we should have a positive approach to the general situation. And we should put out propaganda about why the big crunch is happening, and explaining what squatters are doing, and encouraging other people to squat or stop paying rent. / Pay rent three days a week! [national fuel emergency because of miners work to rule had led to the Heath government implementing a 3 day working week]
[the collection for the hire of the room has finished, and is found to contain £8, which is £1 more than is needed] Could we send a telegram to the miners? / Can we discuss this at the next meeting, about what squatters can do in the general situation? / I propose we send a telegram. / Why don't we send the money? / They have money. / But nowhere near enough. / We'll send them a letter and the money. / That's ridiculous; they'll be insulted. / Of course not; would you be? / [the debate continues on how useful it will be to send money to the miners strike fund] We'll send the mug around again for more money for the miners as the sum is so derisory. / Every group could also send money and support. / The money collected here will be sent to the Kent Miners. [It's decided that the £1 extra from the first collection plus the £6 from the second collection will be sent off to the Kent Miners Strike Fund whether there is a strike or not]
[the meeting closes rather suddenly at 10.40pm]
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