A broad coalition of squatters, anarchists and activists gathered at the newly occupied School of Trespass in Farringdon, North London, on the weekend of 16th/17th October to protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that is currently passing through the House of Lords and threatens to further criminalise and persecute the lifestyles of Gypsy-Roma-Traveller peoples here in the UK as well as making many forms of protest illegal. It is the latest incarnation of a lively and rambunctious resistance movement formed under the banner of Resisting Anti-Trespass that have been involved in an ongoing campaign to creatively requisition disused properties to highlight the encroaching persecution threatened by the Conservative government since 2010. The Tories successfully criminalised trespass in residential properties in 2012, a year after evicting the largest traveller site in Europe at Dale Farm in 2011, and since then have been organising for the coup de grace to completely outlaw all forms of trespass as well as many types of protest. Other actions this year have included the occupation of disused police stations by the Serious Annoyance, the R-AT crew seizing a pizzeria in Soho to dish out free pizza, and the reopening of a gay sauna in Vauxhall for use by members of the queer and trans community it once excluded.
R-AT are one of many currently active groups organising to resist the incoming criminalisation of trespass. According to their website they are “a decentralised network of squatters and vagabonds resisting the proposal and enforcement of the new anti-trespass measures included in the upcoming bill, first announced in the 2019 Tory manifesto … To fight this bill that endangers our very ways of life, we are calling for autonomous actions. We support a diversity of tactics. Let’s take action!” They were joined at the Weekend of Resistance by members of the No Fixed Abode Travellers and Supporters, “a diverse collective of people who have come together to highlight the current issues that affect all Travellers and the nomadic way of life“, and featured workshops on practical squatting, creative resistance, feminist self-defence and much more, including crowbar use 101 and barricade challenges. The event took place a year to the day since the first London Intersquat in many years. The weekend is the latest instance of a vibrant and lively resurgence in the state of squatting across the UK, bolstered by the ongoing resistance at the Wendover anti-HS2 site, where bailiffs continue to try to evict people holding an extensive tunnel network underground.
We received the following communique from occupiers of the Central School of Trespass:
Thank you to everyone who joined us on the 16th and 17th October, for joyful Weekend of Resistance!
A squatted building was used to host talks, workshops, foodshares and art. By inviting people to trespass with us, we wanted to show the creative power of trespass. Because one of the features of the PCSC bill is the further criminalisation of trespass. The explicit target of the government is GRT communities who ready face prejudice and oppression. And who can tell how else this anti-trespass legislation will be applied and interpreted? Squatting, rough sleeping, hiking outside of the beaten track, living in a van or a boat, organising free parties, all these practices will be made more difficult. Any form of protest will be repressed with equal brutality and intolerance, another target of the Bill.
We are looking at a bleak future. But still, here we are, occupying the School of Trespass, in zone 1, bringing back squatting to central London. And we are using this precious space to meet each other and talk about resistance. What have we got?
We have joy as a form of resistance. Dance, music, painting, photography, film, performance, cabaret, drag. Relentlessly annoying landlords and cops. Sharing clothes, meals, smokes and drinks and bedsheets with each other. Laughing in the face of oppression.
We have skillshares. Empowerment comes with a wide range of practices, from knowing how to use tools or cook food to dearresting, stopping police raids and feminist self-defence. These skills build the resilience of our community. We need these sooner rather than later.
Lastly, we have that fire. Burning rage, at the government and its all-powerful police, at fascists who collaborate with them, at landlords, and all those who think they can control us and drain the planet for their own profit. Burning rage at sexists and racists, at TERFS and transphobes, at ableists and fatphobic arseholes. Burning rage at the apathy of middle-class wankers who are comfortable enough to afford tolerating all that bullshit. We have that fire in our hearts, and we will never stop living, exploring, disobeying and fucking about.
The Winter of discontent is coming. And we are fucking ready.