February days of action: Focus E15 mothers campaign steps up the pressure

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February has been a busy month for the Focus E15 Campaign, with organised and lively events stepping up the pressure on Newham's Labour council, and building the campaign. Lets hope March will be an even busier month, pushing the message - social housing, not social cleansing!

On Friday 21 February, the Focus E15 campaign held their 'Focus Fun Bus Big Day Out'. Focus E15 mothers and their supporters, including FRFI/RCG, and friends took thousands of signed petitions to hand in to Boris Johnson, mayor of London, at City Hall. Travelling on a decorated open top bus, the campaign was heard loud and clear as the bus went from Stratford, east London, to the embankment near Tower Bridge, singing and chanting 'social housing, not social cleansing', demanding the basic right of secure social housing, not insecure private-sector rented accommodation. 

On arrival at City Hall, a display of houses was set up with cardboard replicas and pop up tents and strung petitions along the embankment. A representative of Boris Johnson's, Jamie Ratcliff (with the very long job title of 'Assistant Director, programme, policy and services, housing and land directorate') came to take the petitions and a letter from the mothers, Jasmin, Sam and Rachel. However when they went in later to deliver a card to Boris, no one would come down from his office to take it.

It is Boris Johnson who himself claimed that 'The last thing we want to have in our city is a situation such as Paris where the less well-off are pushed out to the suburbs... I'll emphatically resist any attempt to recreate a London where the rich and poor cannot live together.' Yet he is overseeing a London where social cleansing is accelarating as the poor and vulnerable are shunted round the country into insecure short term accommodation far from their family, friends and support networks.

The campaign returned to Stratford jubilant, knowing that the bigger it gets, the more it can reach out to everyone facing evictions and arrears, penalised by the bedroom tax and the benefit cap.

Watch the video of the Focus fun bus big day out:

On Saturday 22 February, supporters of the campaign in the band Rot Jaws organised a benefit gig with three other bands, Gertrude, Snork and Little Death Machine. Attracting over 100 people and packing out the Stag's Head in Hoxton, east London, the gig was a great success, raising valuable money for the campaign and allowing Jasmin, Sam and Rachel to speak to a new audience and tell the story of their struggle.

Keeping up the pressure, on Monday 24 February, Focus E15 mothers, children and supporters went to Newham Town Hall to the council meeting - a public meeting for all local people to attend and hear their elected councillors speak. However, the public gallery was closed for refurbishment - we are told it will be next year before it opens. Only a select few of the public who applied weeks before could be inside. Supporters of the campaign were put in a room with a screen to watch the proceedings and even NUJ card carrying journalist Kate Belgrave was denied the right of entry to the council meeting. We decided enough is enough with this sham democracy - it was time to let Robin Wales, Labour mayor of Newham, know that we were there. The campaign protested in the corridor, making it clear that Newham's Labour council is operating a policy of social cleansing, that young vulnerable homeless people including mothers and children are being sent out of London while council properties in the borough remain boarded up. Wem made it clear that we are fed up of being told by councillor Terry Paul that he is looking into it and we are disgusted by Robin Wales' stance on the homeless in Newham, where the council along with the UK Borders Agency, are threatening rough sleepers with ASBOs.

When Robin Wales, the councillors and other officers left the meeting, they had to pass us in the corridor but didn't stop to speak or answer any questions. Instead they were protected by security guards and staff from the town hall, and Robin Wales was rushed beyond the next set of doors. They may seem brazen in their offices, their press conferences and their town hall meetings with the public excluded, but they are all cowards when it comes to facing those in their community who are bearing the brunt of their vicious policies.

Watch the council rushing out of their 'public' meeting:

The Focus E15 mothers are speaking for all those facing housing insecurity as the campaign continues to ensure no one is evicted from London.

Thank you to everyone who supported these last few events and helped publicise the campaign with leaflets, in the press and on social media.

Onwards to victory!

Join the Focus E15 campaign every Saturday on the street, petitioning and leafletting, with an open mic, on The Broadway, Stratford E15, from 12-2pm.

Come to the open campaign meetings: alternate Saturdays, 1 and 15 March, 2.30-5pm, Bryant Street Methodist Church, Bryant Street E15 4RU.
This week - 1 March - we will also be showing a short clip from the film Viva Venezuela, about social housing projects in the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Facebook: Focus E15 Mothers

Sign the petition online