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Squatters united against global gentrification

CMI UK | 15.02.2006 02:14 | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | London | World

In november last year, Franscesca’s Cafe in East London, was occupied to keep it out of the hands of developers who acquired the council-owned property in what appears to be a dodgy deal with the notorious council. [background feature | campaign website ] Right next to London Fields park and the Regents canal, the area has long been considered desirable by developers. However, it's not just communities in trendy parts of London that are being torn apart by gentrification.

In São Paulo, Brazil, major José Serra has made it his mission to 'gentrify' the city centre and ultimately expel thousands of the low-earning families and street dwellers. He wants to evict 'Prestes Maia', a 22 storey tower block, probably the biggest single squat in the whole of South America which is home to 468 families, a library, workshops, and a venue for numerous autonomous educational, social and cultural activities. Now the 'apparent owner' wants it emptied. The 'owner' has accumulated a debt in municipal taxes of around 1.5 million pounds during the last 15 years of 'ownership' (more than he paid for the building). This, together with long years of abandonment, should justify a claim for the building to become public property, but despite this, a massive police operation paid for by public money was planned to make over 1,600 people homeless in the name of gentrification.

However, the residents of Prestes Maia have enjoyed a last minute reprieve and the eviction has been postponed for at least two months. Nether-the-less, on Thursday 16th, people in London held a solidarity demo outside the Brazillian Embassy [ Call out | report and photos | video ]. In the evening, a film about Prestes Maia was screened at the rampART social centre along with a UK premiere of documentary about police violence in the favelas of Rio.

Video of solidarity action in London

More links: Online Petition | Blog | Ongoing coverage from CMI Brazil (Portuguese)

United under the name of the Downtown Roofless Movement (Movimento Sem Teto do Centro or MSTC) of São Paulo, 468 families have lived in the 22-storey highrise since 2002. People of all ages and upbringings, children, elderly, disabled, artists, activists and students, have all been working together to create a new understanding of how the city should and can work.

Like many buildings in downtown São Paulo, the block had abandoned for years and left to rot. The new squatters cleaned out tonnes of rubbish and litter (200 trucks to be exact!), organized it, expelled drugs and other criminal bosses always there to take advantage, turning it into an exciting and lively human dwelling.

On January 27th, the family's representatives met with the police authorities in charge of the forthcoming eviction. During the meeting, it was made clear that the action will take place somewhere between the 15th and 21st of February (an exact date was not given for 'strategic' reasons). Last week, february 7th, the residents of Prestes Maia’s blocked the street in a two hour protest aimed at publicising their plight.

'PRESTES MAIA MUST STAY' The story of the threat of eviction against this massive autonomous community has spread rapidly around the world sparking outrage.

On Thursday 16th there will be a solidarity demo outside the Brazilian Embassy at 1pm
It's near Marble Arch Station - 32 Green St, London. W1

The organisers are asking people to bring banners, drums, carnival costumes and cardboard boxes with which to erect a shanty town to symbolise the plight of those 468 families who will be made homeless should the eviction take place.



Statement from the residents

16.02.2006 10:41

"We are 1,630 human beings, 315 children, 380 adolescents, 561 women, 466 men. Between them, pregnate and elderly. We are 468 living families of the situated building in the Avenue Prestes Maia n:911 São Paulo Brazil."

"We were surprised by the official notice of nº046/03/06 of the military Policia. It informs the commander of the battalion, to obey to judicial order of 25ª civíl police of São Paulo, to evict us into the street."

"We are living in this property more than the 3 years. The building was abandoned more than 12 years and was full of lice, shit, rats, cockroachs, rubbish and other contaminates. It also served as point of drugs dealing."

"We removed more than 200 containers of garbage and about 1.500 cubical meters of shitl and made the property serve a social function that the federal constitution determines for all the properties."

"The owner that abandoned it owes 5,000,000.00 more than (five tax Real million). He is a tax tax evader."

"Therefore we cannot agree to the decision of courts. Nobody can accept that the courts protects a tax evader. We do not accept the error of the city hall looking after a tax tax evader who seeks the destruction of families, men, women, children and adolescents, only for being poor and homeless.It is a mistake when it's policy takes housing by force from defenseless diligent citizens."

"To the judiciary, it is not appropriate to encourage police violence. It stimulates thus an unnecessary environment of social confrontation. Our situation is not a police matter, but a social matter. The judiciary must demand that the State fulfills the Federal constitution, "To eradicate the poverty and the marginalisation". We are not outlaws or criminals, but people who act in search of its rights consecrated in our Legal system, the Right á housing, article 6º of the Cf-88. We can decide this situation with dialogue, as civilized people."

"We want support of society for a solution just and peaceful. We are poor families, we do not have anywhere else to live. Without this project being made public, we will become homeless in the street ".



Video of Prestes Maia solidarity demo in London

25.02.2006 07:44

Video and english transcripts now available...