Message from the occupiers: “We are occupying part of the aylesbury estate se1 resisting social cleansing. Join us. Neighbourhood Assembly 3 pm [today] sunday. Chartridge house off albany rd.”
Yesterday (Saturday 31 Jan) after the March for Homes demo, a 100-200 strong “squatters bloc” broke off from the main rally and headed South to occupy the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, South London. Houses on the Chartridge House bloc have been opened and were occupied overnight.
The occupiers are holding an assembly this afternoon and ask for neighbours, squatters, and everyone who wants to, to join them. There are homes here for hundreds, lying empty because of the greed of developers and bribed politicians.
The Aylesbury Estate is one of the largest “social housing”complexes in Europe. It was built in the 1960s-70s with 2700 homes. Because it sits on prime inner London real estate, it is being socially cleansed of its working class inhabitants, in a saga that has gone on for over 15 years now. In 1997, genocidal scumbag Tony Blair came here to make his first speech as prime shitster, promising to invest millions to gentrify the area. But in 2001 tenants campaigned and voted against the first plan to sell the estate to a “charitable” private housing association.
Since then various development schemes have come and gone. Southwark Council says its current plan is to demolish all the houses and build 4000 new ones over 20 years, half of which will be for “luxury” sale, half so-called “affordable homes”. Tenants have been evicted, often moved out miles from central London. A rash of ugly identikit yuppy blocks have been built on part of the site. Meanwhile many buildings just sit empty, awaiting demolition or just being left to rot, doors and windows welded shut with steel panels.
There was a big police presence at the start of the occupation yesterday, including a helicopter and photographers, but not TSG riot police. However, after a few hours all cops left, saying that they were treating this as a legal protest and would not try to storm the building.** The building is quite easily defensible, and attackers would need ladders and/or heavy cutting gear to get to the flats. But if this occupation continues it will clearly need more people to get involved and make it their own.
We hope this occupation stays strong and grows. If it can get a momentum of support now, it could become an important battleground in the fight against the social cleansing of London, bringing together squatters, displaced council tenants, and other neighbours to fight together for our city.
(**NOTE: Under the new squatting law, it is supposedly illegal to squat “residential property” as your primary residence. However, as some court cases have now tested, occupying residential property as a protest is legal.)