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Squatting Archive - ALS Meeting (17 Feb 74)
MINUTES of the All London Squatters (ALS) Meeting, held at
The Roebuck, Tottenham Court Road, London W1 on Sunday 17 Feb 1974
approx 45 people present; meeting started at 8.30pm
literature distributed during the course of the meeting included -
LEB Defence Committee Broadsheet No 1
"Support the Miners" (leaflet)
"220, The Fight is on" (+ picket notices)
"Camden High Street Tenants Association Picket" (leaflet)
"Squatters Stay Put in High Street" (duplicated news extracts re 220)
"Komik" (limited distribution)
meetings demos & actions mentioned included -
Monday 18th Feb - 220 Camden High Street Court Picket
Tuesday 19th Feb - Homelessness Committee Meeting
Thursday 21st Feb - LEB 26 Defence Committee Meeting
Monday 25th Feb - LEB 26 Court Picket
5th-30th March - Ideal Home Exhibition Actions
1st-7th April - National Squat Week
A: Not everyone got notification of the meeting; it was posted on Friday. It contains the Agenda, which I will read out for anyone who hasn't got a copy.
A: 1,2 and 7 being carried over from the last meeting. Is there anything to be added?
- The present Industrial Struggles and the Election
- The LEB Campaign
- Homelessness Committee Report
- 220 Camden High Street
- Sutherland Avenue
- Maida Hill Raids by Police
- Organisation and Bulletin
What about the sexist nature of this magazine being passed round? [referring to "Komik"] / I'd like to add 18 Malden Road to the Agenda
Present Industrial Struggles and the Election
- Malden Road
I thought we should have an ongoing strategy on a much wider level which we are now out of touch with. We need to be involved with struggles affecting ordinary people; that's what I was talking about at the end of the last meeting. In North Islington we first thought of squatting a block of flats down the road; but what for? Would it get us support from the local estate nearby? We wondered how we could connect up with local tenants - eg how are people affected by the Finance Housing Act?
A: How can that be added to?
Over the Finance Housing Act, for people who don't read Acts of Parliament, it is wrong to pose struggles around documents. It has an affect over a number of years, and we are more aware of this than people not affected by the Act at the time it is pulished. They react more to the situation than to an Act of Parliament. People must just squat really. / But we are not talking about that specific Act. People have been affected by the 3-day week etc. Should they only have to pay 3 days rent for example? There is a reality to the document; there have been rent increases, and sometimes increases are affected by the 3-day week. It is not just an intellectual thing. / The April 1st Act will also affect the powers of council tenants. After April, they can evict people from council houses without having to rehouse them. Rent strikes, like in Northern Ireland, can be pre-empted by this Act. / Many people supplementing their incomes by not paying rents, either because they don't want to or can't afford it, are probably doing it in isolation. / Surely, it's not our place as squatters to organise rent payers. Our links are made as we squat, with neighbours and other people.
A: Should we, and how can we take part in their struggles?
But there is no concerted tenants movement. / The decision to have a National Squat Week means we have gone beyond the level of just being in our own houses. / What happened to that idea at the big meeting?
A: This comes up in another item on the agenda.
Should we talk about both items together? / But we're talking about lots of things. The National Squat is just one of them. But there is an election, and I think we ought to go to meetings and pickets, and try to get undertakings that Labour MPs would repeal the Housing Finance and Local Government Acts. / But we need to know the effects of trying to combine with other groups such as at the Homelessness Meeting / What happened about National Squat Week? / Should we move on to the next item then?
Homelessness Committee Report
A: Is there anyone here from the Committee? [no answer]
I went to the meeting. [dramatic pause] About 30 people were there from different groups. [interruptions as to the number of people who were present - people confused as to which meeting is being referred to] At the first meeting there were about 300 there. The Liberals did a lot of this, we did a lot of that, and we decided to have another meeting. At the next meeting, I turned up an hour late, ate two pork pies and had some beer, and it was decided that it was imperative to have a slogan: "A Decent Home for All Now", and another meeting. And it was decided to have a demonstration at the Ideal Home Exhibition where the non-militants will stand outside supporting the militants inside. [speech well applauded] / Can I give a counter-report on the first meeting. There were only about 150 there, 60% of them from squatting groups, 20% tenants, and the rest Radfordites etc. It was decided that groups should act locally but not just in a token way, and that local groups should be coordinated by an open committee. I didn't go to the second meeting, but posters were made. / The Radfordites lost the vote at the first meeting, and weren't in evidence at the second. / Yes they were. / At the second meeting, nothing practical came out of it at all. It seems that any action must come locally from people wanting to do things themselves. / The meetings are every Tuesday at the Waterloo Action Centre. / About the pickets for the Earls Court Demonstration, it was decided that groups from different areas should do different days, to be coordinated by the Committee; and someone who works at Earls Court is going to get plans of the building etc. / The majority of people there were from FSAS type groups, and it seemed that all they wanted to do was to produce a slogan and a poster, and let the groups do things themselves. / Some people just want demos so as to get personal publicity. / But the second meeting wasn't full of people there in an FSAS capacity; only one person was there.
220 Camden High Street
In Camden, they are trying to get a motion through the local NALGO [National Association of Local Government Officers] action group, for support for social workers trying to squat people. / At the Committee Meeting, it was brought home how hopeless it was just to deal with the homeless; you become reformist. We need to talk, not just about squatters, but about other sections of society. / 75% of the people there were from official professional social worker agencies. The idea of some sort of squatting action came from this [ALS] meeting originally. But we want it to be permanent, not just a charade like Centre Point. Therefore if we get involved in National Squat Week, it is a political protest; we are not doing it for ourselves. / What can we do at the Ideal Homes Exhibition, rather than just go there? / We can take it over.
We shouldn't adopt such a defeatist manner, just because the meeting didn't achieve much. We have to decide what to do, and how to get support. A National Squat would be a focus for action. I think people ought to do things in their own areas, and go to the meetings and put forward concrete points - about the LEB, Denning's Ruling, the Housing Finance Act, and the Local Government Act. We just can't run away from it. / I think we should run as far away from it as possible. We should not get involved with political things. / About National Squat Week, it is probably best if people in individual areas take over properties in their own areas. We should be saying "Fuck your Law; we've got your houses".We shouldn't bother with the Ideal Homes Exhibition. / The problem of permanent squats is where are the people to come from? This week I could have used six houses, which I didn't have and didn't get together. Therefore how many people in London want to squat, but can't get the property? / Yes we should be concerned with people who want to squat. / We can't stop the Law by taking over a few properties. / It depends who gives in. / But you can't do it as individuals in an enclosed way. / At the last but one ALS Meeting, from Islington we raised the point that we from Hemmingford Road, whilst in theory supporting National Squat Week, haven't got the energy to do it properly and consistently. We think the idea is Utopean. / What worries me is that Islington squatters are squatting people anyway. All we have to do is publicise what we are doing now. / We didn't have the idea of every group being obliged to go off and do something. It was done in order to get away from centralisation. We wanted to do something that wasn't laid down by a centralised committee, which should only be a coordinator. / Every year there's always an industrial dispute, usually the electricians, before the Ideal Homes Exhibition. We could approach the Unions, though it's a bit late now, in order to see if they would have incorporated our own ideas.
At the last meeting of Direct Action for Homes, it was suggested that the squat should be taken over nationally. Lots of people come from all over England and all over the world to do their squatting in London. Direct Action for Homes went to a new town and laid out literature about squatting etc, and now they have fifteen houses. Radical groups and students who have nothing to do could be encouraged to squat. Anyone who is interested, can they see me afterwards. / But squatting action will lead to givernment repression. We need to go wider in order to ensure that squatted places become permanent. / But when squatting, you tell the neighbours, you leaflet the area, you try and get Union support etc. People are doing this anyway. It is common sense to get as much support as you can. / The protective laws on squatting came about in a repressive State, after the Black Death in the 14th century. There was mass squatting and the Government and the Law couldn't stop it. Squatting spread and spread. Squatting is going to increase. We need to act individually, without mass organisation and political demands: they seem to belong to those who long for the ice-pick. This meeting is potentially a mass organisation. / I'm sick of people talking about getting support. You only get support if there is a struggle. You can't have support hanging in the air. We can't even get our own areas together to provide properties for people wanting to squat, so how on earth can we get a National Squat Week together? / But the idea of National Squat Week is that individual areas do it, and do it around April 1st to bring out specific things. Over at 220 Camden High Street, we did go to places where support was hanging in the air, and we got it, and it enabled us to get the property developers to make a compromise.
B: We got a summons and we appear in court tomorrow. Joe Levy has decided to get us out. We had a picket at his offices on Friday, and we are going to have a picket at the court, 10.30am on the Strand near the Aldwich. On Friday about 20 people turned up. We've got quite a lot of support so far. Representatives of all the local groups using it have applied to be joined as defendants. We'll try and get more time, and barricade up and stay there.
We took another of his properties, 6 Camden High Street, and thought that one way to stop him was to try and get other people to write to him. This would show him how much support we had got, and that they would support any attempt to prevent an eviction. We've got some Trade Union support, and we are trying to get more. / The eviction could take place while everyone is at Court, therefore it should be more important to have a bulk of people at 220 while the Court is on, though the picket at the Strand is also important. / They approached Camden Rates Department to get the names of the people at 220, and they were told to piss off, so they went to the Electricity Board and got one name. / Camden Rates department tell me to piss off too, when I try and find out who owns property.
B: There have been various suggestions that we should phone or write to Joe Levy, get in touch with Trade Movements, picket the Court, and finally that we should reply in kind.
From the summonses it would seem that there would need to be seven days notice of an eviction. / Sometimes Court Orders are put into effect before they are actually given. / This is only the second time that summonses have been made out before a Master in Chambers, and not a Judge. In theory a Master in Chambers can't make an Order 113, but last time the Master decided and then it had to go before a Judge. They are probably giving these cases to Masters in Chambers rather than Judges in order to cope with the growing number of 113s. / At Bristol, this seemed to be used as a clearing-house for cases. / A Master can't give a Possession Order. A Master checks that the procedure has been gone through properly. It is then adjourned to an Open Court for a Possession Oreder to be given by a Judge. The Judges' Sessions are held on Wednesdays. / It would probably be held a week this Wednesday. / We're relying on support from this meeting to help prevent an illegal eviction. / At Bartholomew Court, the case kept on being adjourned; and that was heard before a Master in Chambers. / In the 14th century, there was some protection, but since Denning's judgement there's now practically no protection. In our experience the owner went through the whole legit bit, evicted us, and then we went back, and we've been there four months. The legal thing is not important; it is the taking of the houses. / It is unlikely that Levy will attempt an eviction. We have got a tremendous amount of support, and there is an election on. / Probably it's not enough to go round with placards. We heard of families squatting, independently, in London Hospital Properties, and people were sent round by the governors to smash down the doors etc, and it seems we must reply in kind. The time seems to be coming when it is not enough to rely on placards to defend ourselves. / This means we should go round and evict Joe Levy! / Joe Levy is very sensitive to publicity. / Probably he's doing it while the election is on because election coverage will swamp the press.
His phone number is 629-5489. / His address is 18 Grosvenor Square. / We need to rip off some more of his properties.
Report of the LEB Defence Committee
C: We had meetings last Thursday and the Thursday before. We've had more support from the Unions and from Camden Tenants Association, and we have gone to college and Union meetings. There will be a meeting of the defendants only, at 25 Parfett Street at 7.30pm next Thursday, to consolidate their defences. Discussions have taken place with the NCCL (National Council of Civil Liberties) lawyer, and some people are being defended by him, and some are defending themselves. It was suggested that we should picket for the 25th of February, when the first case comes up. We might need to call another meeting over whether we should appeal.
LEB Court Case
D: When we picketed the court, we found that there were about 35 pickets and 200 police! Six of us were allowed in to see Reese, the Secretary of the LEB, who had his legal advisor, Essex, with him. He denied that the LEB discriminated, and said that a circular had been sent round telling local LEB offices not to discriminate against squatters. He didn't say when it had been sent out, and refused to let us have a copy of it. We brought up the landlord situation, and asked if they would accept the Court Ruling if it went against them. We lost the case by the narrowest possible margin. All the important LEB people were there. The final issue settled whether squatters were illegal occupiers.
He interpreted that 'occupiers' should be read as 'legal occupiers'.
D: He ended by saying that further activity should be directed against landlords rather than the LEB. He gave us a slap on the wrist by awarding us costs of £40.
In the last week we've had a conciliatory letter from the LEB saying that the landlords had asked them to switch the supply off, and suggesting that we took it over, and got it supplied under our own names. / There were three instances last week, two with Electricity and one with Gas Boards, where the landlords refused permission to enter. In Cumberland, it was connected with the outcome of the Court Case. In Walthamstowe, the Court Case has affected the deposits required by the Gas Board. So the LEB Case has gone further than London. / I have a point of interest. In St Albans, a squat was evicted last week and they implemented the new law coming out next April. The Social Services refused to rehouse them. They said that all their possessions could be left in the house, but the people were not allowed in.
E: I'm a barrister. If we lose, and we will lose, there's no doubt about it, it will go into Law Reports, and landlords and landlords' lawyers will know they have the power to stop reconnections, and Electricity Boards will say that they can't reconnect because they haven't got the power to enter. In any case we are taking it to court on a dubious point of law. It would mean that if we lost, we will have been wasting time fortifying their position. By taking it to law, we're depriving weak squatters of the limited protection they have.
How does the Court Case affect squatters who have had an account for two years? Can landlords get the LEB to cut off supplies? / All this talk about the Law has wasted a lot of time; we should talk about the appeal. / Landlords could give tenants notice to quit, could disconnect, and then tell the LEB not to reconnect. So this could apply to tenants. The campaign so far has had some successes; we've got concessions [a list of examples is reeled off] but the weapon itself has not been smashed. We have to find out how to smash this weapon; local concessions are not enough. By giving concessions they reinforce the fact that they have the weapon. Where squatting is weak, they use it. It is absurd that we have to ask landlords if we can have electricity. [etc etc... lots of interruptions] / Get on with it. / We know all this. / What are you gettin at? / If we don't appeal, they will think that we are climbing down, and they will use this weapon. / Bullshit! [+ various other shouts of disagreement with the previous speaker] / If we take the Court's advice and tackle the landlords, this will only reinforce their right to have it. / But all of what has been said points to not using the courts. What is important is action, not courts.
Do we have any information about blokes who can reconnect houses from the street? / Yes; at Wandsworth somebody goes round who can reconnect from the street, from the Wandsworth Housing Action Group - telephone 228-4978. / Plans are available for local gas and electricity connections from the local authorities. [libraries? housing departments?]
A decision over whether to appeal or not should be taken by as many people as possible. In the London Tenants Stuggle of the '60s, it was decided to take the case to High Court to appeal. Lots of money was raised and the best legal advice obtained. The whole Tenants Struggle depended upon the outcome of the case. They went to court, lost the case, and after that nothing could be done, because all the political talk had been directed on to the court action. As the court decision was binding, people either said "we fought and lost", or "we must fight in other ways". It involved thousands of people. The movement became totally disunited. Squatters have to fight for survival; they can't win in the courts. Squatters are at the forefront of the people being attacked and branded. Courts are a game they play, in a language which no one understands. We should put on the electricity, whatever the LEB says, and if they cut it off, we switch it back on; and if they cut it off at the road, we must put it back on at the road.
We should contest this court case because it would be foolish to throw away any chance of success. The court case mobilises support and is a focus af attention and activity. / The court case was not a focus of activity. It was the LEB occupation which got on the front of the newspapers, and this was arranged without a meeting. / We're going to lose it. What's the point of fighting the case? It's a waste of energy. / [at this point the meeting is becoming violently argumentative, with lots of interruptions] What's the legal situation if we lose?
It has been said that the Court Case can be used as a focus for a campaign, but if we are going to lose it... [louder and louder shouts for a vote - arguments continue over whether the case should go to court - more cries for a vote] / I propose that we drop the appeal. / [continuing discussion - the landlord of the public house where the meeting is being held comes in for the second time to tell everybody it's time to go, and momentarily switches off the lights - a vote is finally taken, after opposition from the chair and others that the discussion has not been completed] That the appeal be dropped: the vast majority; that the appeal be taken up: 4.
[the meeting ends in disarray (about 10.45pm?) - there is a hurried collection at the door for the hire of the room, and a rushed decision that Parfett Street should call the next meeting in two weeks time]
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