Squat Repression in Bristol
This is a statement from some squatters in Bristol, who had 4 squats, including 40a Space, Salvation Army mutual aid/social centres and Wonky Arrow Books, a radical library.
In the past days, we’ve had our buildings forcibly closed with anti-social behaviour orders, and we’ve been raided by hundreds of riot police. We’ve been beaten, pepper-sprayed, arrested, and sectioned.
This is an escalation– it hasn’t been like this in the UK in years. Not that this is new. No, we see this as part of a long and brutal history of the repression of marginalised communities, and anyone who shows resistance or alternatives.
The police and state media will try and paint this as the result of us being ‘anti-social’ – but isn’t it the police who hurt and intimidate us? Who break down the doors; who criminalize and target poor people, people of colour, travelling communities, people who live differently? It is the state and the police that are truly anti-social, at the core of the troubles we face in our lives.
This is an attempt to intimidate us, to repress mobilization in Bristol (especially around Kill the Bill) and to break down a community that is challenging the police and what they represent. We know that real community makes police obsolete.
Against police repression, in defence of squats and social centres everywhere, and in solidarity with all prisoners and those targeted by the state!
Social Centres Get ASBOs
A few days ago at Wonky Arrow Books squat, plainclothes police started filming a woman getting changed in her bedroom, from the private courtyard behind the house. We told them to go away, and in response, they attempted to make arrests but instead beat up and seriously pepper sprayed 4 of our comrades. Who are the anti-social ones? Who makes our lives unsafe?
On Wednesday morning, we got served anti-social behaviour closure notices for the 3 squats on High St – with a court date for the next morning. No evidence provided, the courts had no information, and it was impossible to get proper legal advice or defence. The court was ridiculous and they wouldn’t adjourn to let us get legal representation. The judges wouldn’t consider us ‘interested parties’ and the police barrister asked them to ‘attach no weight to our evidence’! That said, we know there’s no such thing as a ‘fair trial’ – the law is their game, and we’re shit on their shoes.
In court, we spoke about how our social centre and bookshop had provided community and education in a neglected part of town, about to be further gentrified. We told them how this is part of a broader, politically motivated programme of repression of protesters and those providing alternatives to the system, particularly in vocal opposition to the PCSC Bill. We pointed out that their allegations of ‘anti-social behaviour’ were just about property and business – not the public, who this is supposed to be about, who of course benefit from our spaces. We showed that this is an attempt to criminalize a civil matter (we were already engaged in civil legal processes for all the buildings!).
Police raid squats and surrounding buildings
Early Friday morning, riot police smashed into the squats on High St (which no-one was in) – and then smashed the doors down and raided surrounding shops and flats, to the horror of the people there. We’re deeply sorry that this has happened and we’re trying to rebuild the community there.
There was no reason for the police to raid the surroundings, other than intimidation. This is part of how the police try to divide communities and create fear and mistrust. It is the police that makes the neighbourhood around the squats unsafe, and it always has been.
A couple of hours later, a huge police operation started at the Salvation Army with probably hundreds of riot police from at least 4 forces around the country and at least 40 vehicles.
We were expecting court bailiffs to evict us – but it turned out the police were raiding us to arrest people under Section 17 [of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act: giving police powers to, in certain circumstances, enter property without a warrant to search property and make arrest].
They wanted 3 people for the incident outside Wonky Arrow and said they wouldn’t break in if those people came out. There were only 2 of those people inside, who voluntarily surrendered themselves to protect the squat from being smashed. But the cops still smashed their way in.
After searching and realizing the 3rd wasn’t there, they randomly arrested another person – a black woman the police have continually profiled and targeted. Outside, 5 cops grabbed a woman and dragged her across the street, screaming in pain, then threw her to the ground where she lay crying. They ignored her and blocked access to get her medical attention for pretty serious arm injuries.
At the police station, the police weren’t letting our friends speak to their solicitors (which is a legal right in the UK). After waiting for hours outside the police station, the police told us they had released our comrades – but they hadn’t. We thought they’d disappeared. Eventually, we got 2 of our friends back. We found out the 3rd had been taken to a hospital and sectioned under S.136. We are horrified.
State repression causes serious mental distress. We know sectioning is state violence, and we recognise its racialized and gendered nature.
We have all our friends back with us now. They were released without charges, but with restrictive bail conditions. The police are still harassing us.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us, including Bristol Defendant Solidarity and medics.
DEMO – 12 noon, Sunday 6th June
We’ve called a demo outside the old courts on the High St, opposite where 3 of our squats were. A demo against police repression, in defence of squats, and in solidarity with prisoners. We want to have a day of sharing experiences and ideas about the inherent violence of policing. We want to share what community autonomy and defence away from the state could and can look like!
Check @40aspace and @wonky.arrow on Instagram for info/updates.