This Saturday I’ll be joining the “March for Homes” in London, as campaigning groups and individuals call for controls on the private rental market and protection for social housing — and, ideally, a massive, not-for-profit, social homebuilding programme. One group who will be attending is People Before Profit, who, at the weekend, raised this excellent little house outside Lewisham Council’s offices. Campaigners have been sleeping in it at night ever since, and in the daytime collecting signatures on a petition to Lewisham’s Mayor, Steve Bullock, and educating passers-by about the deplorable housing situation in Lewisham — replicated across London’s 32 boroughs, of course — and calling for local housing needs to be addressed, and not the profits of developers, who are all over Lewisham like a plague. Spokesman John Hamilton said, “We want all new housing to be affordable,” and also highlighted the 600 families currently living in temporary accommodation in the borough. “We need drastic action,” he added.
On Saturday, campaigners from across London — myself included — will be marching to City Hall — that odd little lop-sided egg near Tower Bridge, part of the horribly corporate More London development — to tell London’s addled Mayor, Boris Johnson, that drastic action is indeed needed on housing. That’s at 2pm, and is preceded by two marches beginning at 12 noon — one from south London and one from the east.
The south London meeting point (see the map here and the Facebook page) is St. Maryʼs Churchyard, just south of the Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6SQ (nearest tube/rail Elephant & Castle), the protected green space next to two new developments — to the north, ‘One the Elephant,’ a 37-storey tower — with no social housing component — that is being built by Lend Lease (the Australian developers who snapped up the Heygate Estate from the Labour Council for a mere £50m) and to the south, a 44-storey tower — 360 London — that Mace and Essential Living are building, which “will provide 462 units, of which 188 will be affordable” (but only once the word “affordable” has been twisted out of all shape to mean 80% of market rents; in other words, unaffordable for most ordinary working people). According to the London SE1 website, “It will contain one of the largest number of homes for long-term private rental in the country when complete.” In addition, “The Peabody Housing Trust has been appointed to manage the affordable housing element with 159 shared ownership and 29 rental units.” Read the rest of this entry »
Burning Effigies of Tories at the Bonfire of Cuts in Lewisham, a set on Flickr.
On November 5, 2013 — Bonfire Night — I photographed effigies of members of the cabinet of the Tory-led coalition government — including David Cameron, George Osborne and others, as well as key Lib Dems and Labour politicians — as they were burned by activists in a brazier in the centre of Lewisham, in south east London. The caricatures were drawn by a member of the political group People Before Profit.
The activists in Lewisham were part of a day of action across the UK, in which numerous protestors held Bonfires of Austerity, initiated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an anti-austerity coalition of activists, union members and MPs, to protest about the wretched Tory-led coalition government’s continued assault on the very fabric of the state, and on the most vulnerable members of society — particularly, the poor, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled.
The borough of Lewisham, where I live, is famous for successfully resisting the government’s plans to severely downgrade services at the local hospital, and on Bonfire Night activists marched from Catford to an open space in the centre of Lewisham (by the main roundabout, and affectionately known as “the grassy knoll”), where they burned effigies of David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson. The protestors also burned effigies of the Lib Dems Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, key members of the disastrous coalition government, and Labour’s Gordon Brown and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor. Read the rest of this entry »
A year ago, when Occupy Wall Street began, people occupying public spaces in large numbers and refusing to go home was innovative and radical, but then those spaces were reclaimed by the establishment — with violence, or through legal machinations — essentially bringing the first phase in this new era of protest and activism to an end.
Anyone thinking that the Occupy movement has gone away, however, is missing the point. Just as the movement introduced a powerful new concept — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent — into political discourse, so the complaints that motivated people to occupy public spaces in the first place have not gone away.
Essentially, we live in a broken system, broken by criminals who have not been held responsible for their actions, criminals on Wall Street and in the City of London and Canary Wharf, motivated by greed on a colossal scale, who, aided and abetted by venal and/or stupid politicians, crashed the global economy in 2008 but then got away with it.
Saved by government bailouts, the criminals continue to live lives of almost unprecedented wealth and greed, while the rest of the people — the 99 percent — are being made to pay for the crimes of these thieves through savage austerity programs that are driven by malignant ideologies and are also, it should be noted, economically suicidal. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, the Occupy movement, which grew out of Occupy Wall Street last October, and swiftly established itself across the US and around the world, is holding May Day events, or joining existing worker-based events, in numerous countries.
As the movement signals its reappearance, many observers have been wondering where its focus will be. In fact, even before the coordinated wave of evictions of Occupy camps across the US last November, and the later eviction of Occupy London outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, questions had been raised about where the movement should direct its attentions next, and empty property had arisen as a regular focus.
In the US, activists began to examine the foreclosure crisis, and the disgraceful situation whereby a vast number of houses are empty because those living there and paying mortgages couldn’t keep up with their payments or were swindled by unscrupulous lenders, even though there are no buyers for most of these properties, and homelessness is reaching epidemic proportions. In December 2011, Amnesty International reported that “approximately 3.5 million people in the US are homeless, many of them veterans,” and, “at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.” Read the rest of this entry »
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