- Created: Monday, 23 November 2015 14:13
- Written by Robert Clough
On Thursday 17 September, five Loveactivist protesters were gaoled for ten weeks for occupying the empty Bank of England building in central Liverpool in support of homeless people. Although all had pleaded guilty, there was no expectation that they would receive a custodial sentence. However, given the spate of occupations across the country highlighting homelessness, it was evident that there had been a decision to make an example of the five. Although one of the gaoled activists, Chelsea Stafford, was given a suspended sentence and released on appeal, the other four will have to serve their time. FRFI readers are urged to send cards and letters to them.
The political momentum to occupy the Bank of England was provided by a militant solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people in Liverpool during the summer of 2014 which repeatedly occupied shops and banks either selling Israeli goods or investing in the Israeli economy, and in which FRFI supporters played a leading role. The spark was provided by cuts in Liverpool council services to the homeless. On 18 April 2015, activists seized the building and held it until the last five were forcibly evicted on 12 May. The occupation provided a safe space for dozens of rough sleepers and homeless people every night until the police sealed off any access on 29 April; over 1,000 people passed through the building bringing donations of food or expressing solidarity with its anti-austerity message, while polls showed that there was majority public support for the action. Despite subsequent denials, the local Whitechapel homeless charity referred homeless people to the occupation as it had no beds in the city.
Once the building’s owners were able to secure a court order for its repossession, the police went on the attack. They erected a fence to stop the public from providing food and water to the occupiers and started to use dispersal powers against supporters under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. These had first been used in October 2014 against pro-Palestine protesters. Around 20 people were arrested. One case has been heard: the defendant pleaded guilty and had to pay over £1,000 in court costs and fines. Remaining cases will be heard in November 2015.
With no legal defence for defying the court order, and with the pressure of significantly greater costs if they tried to mount a challenge, the five activists pleaded guilty to the charge of aggravated trespass. Court costs totalled £2,500. This is class justice, intended as a lesson to all who want to undertake a real struggle against austerity and the consequent human suffering.
For further information go to:
Send donations via www.gofundme.com/d94jfvf3, and letters and cards to
John Hall A8155DN, HMP Liverpool, 68 Hornby Road, Merseyside L9 3DF
John Rice A8157DN, also at HMP Liverpool
James Allanson A8147DN, HMP Altcourse, Brookfield Dr, Liverpool L9 7LH
James C Jones (Jay) A8149DN, also at Altcourse.
FRFI 247 October/November 2015