Created: Wednesday, 18 March 2015 15:24
Written by London FRFI
Activists from the Revolutionary Communist Group/Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined occupiers, residents and other supporters at Sweets Way housing estate on Tuesday night for ‘a fun night of people coming together to protect the Sweets Way estate’ after comedian turned social-housing activist Russell Brand used his clout on social media to announce the Sweets Way sleepover.
Sweets Way is a housing estate in Barnet, North London, which is owned by Annington Homes property developer. Barnet Council have given Annington planning permission to knock down 160 homes in order to build luxury apartments. Just 11% of the new premises will be deemed ‘affordable’ – slightly below ‘market values’ but well out of reach of working class families. First, however, Annington and the Council have had to remove the existing residents, a diverse community including many families with children who have lived there for years. The homes are in excellent condition, with multiple bedrooms and spacious kitchens. French doors lead onto private gardens, with a shed and the houses are surrounded by green space. It is criminal to knock down these homes.
The first eviction took place on 2 January 2015, and by mid-March all but 10 families had been turfed out – violently in some cases with their possessions dumped on the floor outside – and dispersed across London. Some Sweets Way children are forced to travel up to two hours to get to school each morning.
Under capitalism housing is a commodity and land and properties are viewed as investments, regardless of people's needs. With complete contempt for the community it has torn apart, Annington Homes is now advertising this development as ‘a wise investment’. Their website announces: ‘savvy house hunters are now snapping up homes in the equally desirable but more affordable neighbouring Borough of Barnet, which enjoys excellent transport connections and access to green parkland.’
On 8 March, one of the empty homes was occupied by housing activists, including people from Focus E15 Mothers campaign, Our West Hendon (another local campaign fighting evictions) and the RCG. Their action was supported by the already-evicted residents of Sweets Way and by those whose evictions are pending. The familiar banners that had decorated the Open House in the Carpenters Estate, occupied by Focus E15 last autumn, were draped along the garden fence ‘These People Need Homes’ and ‘These Homes Need People’. The protest squat has continued since then, with residents taking a lead in planning how the campaign moves forwards. Everyday there have been campaign meetings, workshops with advice and homework club and other activities for the children. There is now a nursery in the space opened up in the neighbouring home. There are always residents at the house, getting organised and taking the campaign forwards. On Monday, they took the protest to Annington Homes headquarters in central London. The children of Sweets Way led the protest.
Annington Homes response has been to start legal proceedings to evict the occupation and thugs have been sent in to smash up water pipe, electric and gas supplies and even destroy some of the homes from the inside.
The Sweets Way sleepover was attended by over 100 people, including the media who shied away until Russell Brand turned up last Saturday. The RCG took our sound system and held an open mic for political speeches, poems, songs and chants. Russell Brand provided an ice cream van. There was a fire and music, creating a festival atmosphere. In the midst of the revelry, another empty home was opened up to loud cheers and occupied.
The RCG will continue to support Sweets Way Resists and contribute to the growing movement to defend social housing in London. Focus E15 Mothers campaign and the New Era estate campaign demonstrate that when working class people get together, get organised and resist we can see off the greedy investors and the politicians in their service.