Newham council and police shut down Focus E15 street stall
On Saturday 5 December, the Focus E15 campaign was holding its weekly street stall in Stratford when police and a council official confiscated the stall table, bundling it into a police van like a person being arrested. This is the reality of the ‘right to protest’ in 2015.
As usual the campaign had been drawing attention to the housing crisis in Newham, a Labour borough in east London, home of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and the second poorest borough in England. Newham has the severest housing need in London and 25% of homes are overcrowded. Thousands of people and families are in temporary accommodation and those that are offered housing are being sent out of borough and out of London. Labour Mayor Robin Wales, who in 1995 talked about ‘making Newham the new Islington’, is pushing ahead with gentrification. Newham is keeping over 400 council homes empty on the Carpenters Estate while luxury apartments are going up everywhere.
On Saturday 5 December, members and supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Group assembled in Trafalgar Square for an open mic protest against British airstrikes on Syria.
As the sound system powered out roots reggae rhythms, comrades gave some excellent speeches, denouncing British imperialism, the destruction of Iraq, Libya and now Syria. All these countries have been attacked on false pretences, with infrastructure as the primary target of bombing and capitalist profits as the motive.
Members of the public were invited to get involved, to take the mic and have their say, to sign our "Hands off Syria” petition and to get a copy of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
The banners and music drew crowds as comrades gave out leaflets and chatted with people about what is going on in Syria and what action we can and should be taking and why.
We have to create popular resistanceto the warmongering of Britain's ruling capitalist class and their representatives in Westminster. The Revolutionary Communist Group will be a part of this. You should join us to take democracy to the streets and demonstrate the political power of the people.
While the action was a great success, this is only the beginning, there is much more work to be done to build an effective anti-imperialist and revolutionary movement in the UK, so the call goes out to all that will hear, to get active and get involved, with organisation, we can win!
On 15 October, comrades from the RCG joined a variety of pro-Palestine activists on a picket of Marks and Spencer's flagship shop on Oxford Street. The picket, called and organised by the RCG campaign 'Victory to the Intifada', was held weekly for thirteen years in previous Palestinian intifadas (uprisings), and for three months in 2014 following the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza. M&S is one of many British businesses which sell huge amounts of Israeli produce, but it also offers political support to Zionism. The Palestinian people called for a 'Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions' (BDS) campaign against Israel in 2003. With the Palestinian people rising up against the Zionist occupation once again, in what many are calling the 'Third Intifada', the picket took the message of support for the Palestinian resistance to the streets, and called for a boycott of M&S and all companies supporting Israel. The response was overwhelming, with chants of 'Free Palestine!' drowning out the tiny but aggressive Zionist counter-picket. End British support for Israel!
The Revolutionary Communist Group joined the Focus E15 campaign on the streets of Stratford, east London, on Saturday 19 September, for the March against Evictions, marking the second anniversary of the campaign. The RCG banner read ‘Housing is a right, not a privilege!’ - and that is the message that the march put across as around 700 people joined the march from Stratford Park to the Carpenters Estate.
At the rally before the march, members of the campaign told the crowd about the reality of the housing crisis for working class people - Ibtisam and Fathiya, residents of Focus E15 hostel where the campaign began, facing eviction by 30 November when East Thames Housing Association and Newham council wash their hands of the hostel's supported living scheme. Fathiya, due to have her baby in the next week, was sent to view a property in Southend. She said no as her support is in Newham. Now she is not sure what future awaits her and her new baby. Ghassem from the Asylum Clinic spoke about the racism and discrimination in housing facing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.The speakers were rounded off by a comrade from the RCG who spoke of the role of the organisation in Focus E15 campaign, and the role communists must play in making the links between the vicious policies of Labour in Newham and the bigger picture of capitalism and imperialism, austerity at home and wars and plunder abroad.
Marching alongside Focus E15 and RCG/FRFI banners, were people, placards and banners from Eviction Resistance Network, Boleyn Development 100, Action East End, Clapton Ultras, Class War, TUSC, Left Unity, SWP, Newham Green Party, Lesbian and Gay Men Support the Miners, Sisters Uncut, Eirigi, Class War, National Campaign against Fees and Cuts, Advisory Service for Squatters, Friends of the Joiners Arms, London Teachers Housing Campaign, Lewisham People Before Profit, Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Grenfell Action Group, Architects for Social Housing, Radical Housing Network, East London Radical Assembly, Feminist Fightback, Digs, Sweets Way and the Aylesbury, Take Back the City, Young GMB, Streets Kitchen, Newham Monitoring Project and wonderful drummers who kept the chanters in rhythm.
Estate agents Foxtons represent gentrification and are known for their high rents and high letting fees and aggressive punitive attitude towards tenants. They are legitimate targets of the housing movement and as the march passed the Stratford branch, marchers,led by Class War comrades, entered the shop and staged a short occupation.
The march ended at the Carpenters Estate, the site of the Open House occupation one year before. Three of the original mothers from Focus E15 hostel who started the campaign - Sam, Jasmin and Tresha - spoke. Jasmin contributed on behalf of the RCG talking about the issue of housing in the context of the war on the working class and cuts in education and health and linking the fightback here to the international struggle for socialism. Balloons were released to represent the 50,000 families who have been moved out of borough and out of the city in the last three years.
For Stratford, the Olympic legacy is luxury apartments for the rich and social cleansing for the poor, while the Carpenters Estate has over 400 empty homes that the council have decanted families from over the last ten years and now leave empty. Robin Wales, Labour Mayor of Newham, recently asked for £10,000 more on his pension, while he and the Labour council, continue to ship people out of the borough and ask the electorate to help decide where to cut £50m from public services over the next year. The campaign has a lot of work to do!
Join our comrades on the streets every week with the Focus E15 campaign, Saturdays 12-2pm on the Broadway, Stratford E15, outside Wilkinson’s for the lively campaign stall.