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Stop the Rot, Squat the Lot

Brighton FreeSpace | 11.03.2009 13:25 | Free Spaces | South Coast

An attempt to create a social space in Brighton outisde of the banal injustice of landlordship and capitalism, and all the highs and lows that come with it!

A couple of weeks ago, in the depths of night, a small group of pesky squatters approached Vantage Point with the intent of entering and occupying one of the empty ground floor shop fronts. After a successful entrance, the property was secured and some of our last remaining civil rights celebrated.
The occupied property, the old 'Gamer Heaven' games café (7 – 8 Circus Parade), is part of a large building owned by St. James' Investments, a Mayfair based property developer who buy up the houses, shops or any other building of those in financial crisis for cash, but for significantly less than it's actual value. It is they that are building the new Tesco superstore to the west of London Road, thus displacing a multitude of small businesses and generally gentrifying the area.
The intention of those involved was to open up the space as a social centre, using it as a blank slate for anyone and everyone to get involved, so artists and musicians were invited to come and make the one room as creative and comfortable as possible. After a frantic week of tatting, painting, building and generally organising with ridiculously low funds, the space was opened to the public on Friday the 27th of February. There was live music, a continuation of the Smash EDO 'Art not War' art gallery, food and a small info shop, as well as some other bits 'n' bobs. The whole event went down in a beautifully haphazard way, and despite everything happening in a completely different manner to what was expected, the consensus was that a good thing had happened.
There was no contact for a week, despite the party going on until 4am, but on Monday the 2nd of March, the building manager attempted to enter. After the briefest of conversations through the door, with his contribution being 'f***ing squatters!', a handful of suits turned up. They didn't want to talk, and it was obvious that they didn't know the law, but it was explained to them that there were proper legal channels through which they had to go in order to evict the occupiers.

Accusations of sexual abuse!

Despite this, on Thursday the 5th of March Rossendales security, whose slogan is 'Proud to be Professionals', issued the occupants with a 'Notice to Quit', precariously claiming that under section 33 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 (CJA), and section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJPOA), they had the right to remove any people or vehicles still residing in the property after twenty-four hours of issuing the notice.
However, a quick liaison with the the fantastically useful and greatly appreciated Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS) revealed that there is no section 33 of the CJA, but section 33 of the CJPOA deals with the “Abolition of corroboration requirements under the Sexual Offences Act 1956”. Now, despite the squatter stereotype, we are not sexual offenders, so it is hard to see where Rossendales were going with this!
Further on, and the ASS revealed that section 61 of the CJPOA deals with “Powers to remove trespassers on land”, but subsection (9) makes it clear that this only refers to trespassers on common land, and since the occupied property is not common land but private property, the section does not apply, and the matter is only resolvable in a court of law, as the suits were told when we first spoke to them!
Anyway, the matter was resolved by the ASS faxing a letter explaining this to Rossendales security, as well as contacting Brighton police to confirm that any attempt at forced entry would result in a swift arrest, and guess what...the bailiffs never showed.

Same old abstraction bollocks

To continue the bombardment Brighton squatters receive by various authorities, the police reared their ugly head on Monday (the 5th) accusing those inside of abstraction (the illegal use of electricity). When an occupant asked who was at the door, one pig called himself Phil and asked to be let in, but when they were refused entry they proceeded to try and kick the door in, an illegal act considering they didn't have a warrant.
However, due to this common attempt by the cops at a quick an easy eviction, Brighton squatters have got quite savvy with the legalities of electricity, and quickly produced a letter from the occupants to the supplier confirming their intent to pay for any electricity they used, and a reply from the supplier to the occupants accepting this affirmation. Eventually the police left, but what was interesting was that both of them were recognisable by a number of the squatters as the team that had illegally evicted them from a residential property earlier in the year. Nice try Sergeant Bellfield and the illegal squat eviction team, but you won't get us out this time!

After all this malarkey, the space is still there and waiting to be used by anyone, for whatever you want. So far we have had acoustic music nights, films, food, as well as ever-changing artwork and an infoshop. We still have not received court papers but are expecting them in the next few days, so come along and enjoy the space whilst it is still there! Just pop down, or email

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