Wednesday 27th April saw the MET police raiding squats in Brighton and Hove and making an arrest in connection with the March 26 TUC demo in London on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. This person was held in Harrow Road police station near to Kensal Rise in London until around midnight before being released.
Yesterday, Thursday 28th April started early for many with the MET raiding “Offmarket” in Hackney (a squatted shop in Hackney), the “Transition Heathrow” Project and Ratstar Social Centre in Camberwell (including the bike workshop, Ratrest and the houses, as well as Petrosiege down the road). This comes soon after a CCTV camera was installed on a building across the road from Ratstar which has been pointing at the main entrance of the space and following people walking in and out over the last few days.
- Offmarket – http://londonscn.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/offmarket-has-moved/
- Transition Heathrow – http://www.transitionheathrow.com/grow-heathrow/
- Petrosiege – http://petrosiege.wordpress.com/about-us/
- New Internationalist’s take on it – http://www.newint.org/blog/2011/04/28/squattageddon/
Offmarket was raided on a warrant to search for evidence and info re: March26 demo – front door smashed up and one arrest made, but woman released later. The action was all over by around 9am and the space remains open!
Grow Heathrow – BBC state no arrests made during arrest, though one person was handcuffed and others “forcibly detained”.
Ratstar and Petrosiege:
At around 7:15 yesterday morning, cops arrived at Ratstar and a specialist climbing team gained entry to the space through the roof. Upon trying to talk to the police, one resident was immediately arrested. The police had a warrant to search for stolen property, but once inside decided to make arrests for abstraction of electricity (despite the space having an account). After smashing the window of the bike workshop and gaining entry to Ratrest – a space used for activities such as yoga, meditation and martial arts, they got a warrant to enter the houses joined to Ratstar and make arrests there also – this took until around 11am.
Petrosiege had been raided and several arrests made before many supporters had been able to get to Camberwell.
Supporters texted and tweeted the message and soon after police arrived, there was also a crowd of supporters outside the space, observing and filming the police activity and letting the residents know that they were supported. Police finally brought the resident dogs out on leads to chill out on Camberwell Green, but seemed less caring towards the cats who remained inside and stressed out for several hours.
During the search, police were seen to be using “spotter cards” (www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/25/spotter-cards) and attempting to identify anyone who may have been involved in the TUC demo on March 26. One arrest was made of a person who had come to support the Ratstar residents. This person was taken to the local Walworth Road police station while the other arrestees were all being taken up to Harrow Road.
There seemed to be a lot of support for the space from locals who stopped to ask what was happening. The press were also interested in what was going on and were asking questions to supporters, non-arrested residents and the police – one report states that a journalist was told by one officer that the raid was “off course to do with the royal wedding” and a minute later was told adamantly by another officer that it had absolutely nothing to do with it. No surprise there.
While the action all seemed to be happening around the main space and the houses, there were 3 people getting less attention in the carpark between Ratstar and the Job Centre, where they had been blocked into a corner by 2 parked police vans. Held there since 7am, they weren’t released until after 1pm and were still clueless as to what powers the police supposed they had to detain them without arresting them.
Having contacted the Vegan Prisoners Support Group (www.vpsg.org) to inform them of the arrests, one supporter cycled off to Harrow Road just before 3pm to try and find out whether the arrestees would be released that night or if officers intended to hold them to bring them before court (which would be Tuesday). Police were unable to tell her anything unless someone had specifically called her… and while leaving the station, she received a call that one of the arrestees had tried to call her at her work, so returned to ask again. Police were able to inform her that they did “not anticipate a problem with releasing people” that night and that they did not want to keep them in over the weekend. Message gets spread that supporters should meet arrestees out of the station later.
At 9pm, the search was continuing at Ratstar – police numbers had dwindled over the previous few hours, but so had numbers of supporters, so messages continued to be spread for people to come down and for potential crash spaces to be offered as a rumour had been heard that residents may not be allowed back in until Sunday.
It was obvious that the police could not reasonably impose bail conditions on the arrestees just for abstraction of electricity and, when they were later released, just after 9pm, we learned that they had been further arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to breach the peace. On what evidence? A handful of Chris Knight’s Zombie Wedding leaflets had been found in the cafe space inside Ratstar. They have been bailed away from Westminster until 10th June. A demo was arranged outside Walworth Road in support of those arrested for 8am today.
Green & Black Cross (http://greenandblackcross.org) and Indymedia reported that an arrest was made in Cambridge and one in Edinburgh after groups and individuals were raided in Scotland in relation to March 26.
Around midnight a call went out for torches and candles to be taken down to Camberwell as the elctricity company were cutting off the elctricity to Ratstar at street level. We learned from residents this morning that this was NOT to do with any crime being committed, but because the police had deemed there was a risk that the electricity could be dangerous and were “worried” that the squatters may connect it up in an unsafe way. One last dig at the space after a mistake-filled day?
People were allowed back in around 2:15 this morning andthe remainder of the arrestees were being released from Walworth Road in the early hours of today. Petrosiege residents have been evicted and the place condemned. They should be allowed to go in to get their property this afternoon. The police have not left a list of property taken from the space, which included computers, phones and every hard-drive they could find, though residents were told they could get a list from the local police station… who informed them they did not have a copy. Police were very vague about what had been seized.
In other news, the Metropolitan police have decided to charge several of the student protesters arrested in the wake of last year’s demonstrations with violent disorder, affray and criminal damage in order to impose bail conditions on them and banning them from Westminster and the City for the next week.
Newspapers yesterday were also talking about the crack-down on benefit frauds and how much they’ve cost the taxpayer… the day before the wedding which is costing taxpayers 20million on security.