Category Archives: Yuppification & All That Jazz

Broadmead expansion, ‘Bristol Alliance’, Cabot Circus, loft living, serviced apartments etc

Resisting yuppification on Ashley Road

Ashley Road resister fists 'Places For People'

I popped up the road earlier to see how things were going at the 87 Ashley Road squat eviction resistance (hmmm, bit of a mouthful there, sorry).

To rewind a little: until yesterday, there was a squat on 87 Ashley Road, but it was evicted in the morning. Former squatters of the Places For People-owned building (and possibly others) then managed to evade security, bailiffs and police, and gained access to the roof. They have been there ever since.

According to people on the ground supporting them, they have ample wet- and warm-weather gear, food, supplies and other such useful materials up there.

The reasons for the resistance are outlined in a leaflet:

Dear Neighbours

At 10.am this morning (12/11/08) police and bailiffs smashed their way into 87 Ashley Road evicting some of the occupants. Several people are on the roof, while contractors and bailiffs rip up the inside to make the house uninhabitable.

We are resisting this eviction because…

  1. We need somewhere to live.
  2. Taking your housing needs into your own hands is a positive thing, especially when social housing has such long waiting lists.
  3. This building has been left empty for at least 4 years, during this time both Places for People (P4P) and Bristol Churches (previous owners) have made no attempt to renovate or convert it into social housing. That’s 8 potential flats that have been left to rot. And for the past 6 months no.87 has housed more than 30 people.
  4. P4P have no planning permission to use or renovate this building. This morning a P4P representative said that the only active planning application they have is for April 2009, where 87 will contain a ‘site office’ for the ‘development’ of 16 other ‘shared ownership’ properties in the St. Pauls Area.
  5. St. Pauls UnLtd have opposed P4P’s plans because they did not provide enough social housing or affordable housing.
  6. Existing P4P tenants complain about the standard of service of maintenance in their existing properties.
  7. Everyone has a right to a home: Squatting is legal, necessary, and provides an alternative to the stranglehold of debt that underpins the current financial crisis.
  8. Tying people into 30+years of mortgage debt is an illusion of housing security, in the light recent repossessions.
  9. We are part of this community and against all privatizations, repossessions and evictions.

P4P are more concerned with money than housing those in need they are the biggest UK housing association and have the highest paid chief executives in the housing sector (Director salary: £258k in 2007). Housing associations were set up to fill the gap left by Thatcher’s destruction of social housing provision. They cannot legally make profits, but make up for this with fat bonus checks for the fat cats. That’s taxpayer’s money going to fund extravagant lifestyles

For more information and sources about P4P please check indymedia

http://bristol.indymedia.org

‘Direct action is better than any waiting list’ Squatters handbook. (Or mortgage!)

87 Ashley Road eviction resistanceI used to squat, because I was too poor (despite a full-time – but minimum wage – job) to rent privately, and locked out of the housing list. The property I squatted had long been emptied by its owner, a housing association. Despite assurances to its previous tenants that it would be repaired to an acceptable standard and that they would be permitted to return to it, it was not, and they weren’t. I and my fellow squatters were able to quietly live there for nearly six months before the housing association even realised we were there. We negotiated a situation with the housing association whereby they would not institute eviction proceedings against us, and in return we would vacate the premises (with fair notice) when they were ready to make good the building for the return of its tenants. In its life as a squat, this building helped house around twenty people, and helped seven or eight get onto the housing list, where they might secure decent long-term accommodation.

After I left, there was some kind of breakdown in relations between the squat and the housing association (I’m not sure of the details), and I believe an eviction was carried out. The building was then left to rot until the housing association was able to discharge its obligations under law, and then to sell it on the open market to a private developer. The tenants did not return. The building is now in the private sector, another piece of prime inner city real estate lost from the social housing sector.

Therein lies the rub – just because an empty property’s owner is a ‘social landlord’, it does not necessarily follow that the landlord wishes to use the property to house poorer people who want to rent. Often the landlord will look to the market, and decide that ‘shared ownership’ or open market sales would be more desirable – desirable to the landlord, not to those it is meant to be housing.

From what I understand of the situation at 87 Ashley Road, the building was not cleared of squatters so tenants from the housing list might be rented a home there, but instead to sell off. This is not about ‘places for people’, this is about profits.

The roof resisters seem like they might be there for a while. I’m sure they would welcome support on the ground, even if only for a few minutes.

St. Paul’s: What a gas

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

Just after two in the afternoon today I walked up the street to go to the shops. As I turned onto Stokes Croft from the St. Paul’s side, I saw a small gaggle of people on Turbo Island. Walking over the small green towards them I saw a policeman and a couple of plastic pigs. I watched with mild interest as I carried on towards the shop. It appeared to be the Avin’ It Somewhere Constantly‘s recent clampdown on street drinking in the area (which will soon be bolstered by the council’s adoption of a No Street Drinking order over much of St. Paul’s).

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

After concluding my business in the shop, I returned the same way. I had left the house intending to also take some pictures of the artwork on the corner of Stokes Croft and CIty Road, so I had a camera with me. As I headed back in that direction, whilst the pedestrian crossing over Jamaica Street turned to the little green man, I could see the copper briskly walking behind one of the Turboheads as he (or possibly she) waddled away from the area. He had his back to the policeman. The policeman raised his arm, and with his hand maybe a foot away from the man’s head, he zapped him with pepperspray. As I was walking across the road I managed to capture the immediate aftermath, with the man screaming in agony, clutching at his face. I could not really hear anything that was being said at this point – things just moved very quickly.

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

By the time I got to the other side of the road, the gas-happy cop and the two PCSOs had manhandled the coughing, spluttering, choking man to the ground. The officer with the itchy trigger finger cited section four of the Public Order Act, claiming that “you threatened to break my jaw”.

bloggassing_041

I continued taking photographs as we were all stood (or lying, in severe discomfort) no more than three or four feet apart. It seemed like the only thing to do, seeing as they had applied pressure points to the man’s wrists before cuffing him, and did not appear in a particularly rational state of mind.

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The proper copper (who by now I could see was a sergeant, serial number 2978) kneeled over him as he radioed for back up. The plastic pigs hovered around, not really giving off the vibe of people who knew what they should be doing. One, a small, youngish blonde woman, did seem to take some pleasure in assisting her mentor in roughly rolling their suspect around on the pavement. Her colleague – older, larger – orbited the scene in what to me looked like adrenaline-fuelled confusion. All three seemed to be keen to look away from the camera as I continued to snap away – turning away from me, bowing their heads, rubbing their faces with their hands. I mostly ignored them and kept my focus on the man on the ground, his faced screwed up in pain, having difficulty breathing, and dribbling a lot.

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Sergeant 2978, perhaps a little less tunnel-visioned by now, announced to his colleagues that they should step back a little, to ‘let the gas disperse’ or similar (I can’t remember what his exact words were at this point). This gave the jumpy brunette the chance to address herself to me:

Can you stop taking photographs?

She may even have appended ‘please’ to the end, but the tone was not of a polite request.

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I replied:

Why? There’s nothing wrong with taking photos, there’s no law against it.

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Provoking the response from her:

But it’s not needed, is it? Stop taking pictures and move on.

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Sensing that now their quarry was prone and barely breathing on the floor, there was no particular need to provide work for idle hands by standing around and arguing the legal toss with three stooges who found the need to gas someone for daring to drink a can of brew in public, I decided against dialogue, and instead took a long, lingering look at her serial number (8317) and then into her eyes, before carefully repairing to a safe distance, from where I continued to watch the scene, make notes on my phone, and review the pictures I had already taken. The PCSOs under the direction of sergeant 2978 did their best to clear the scene of any witnesses – mostly the brew crew they had initially been ‘talking to’ – citing no powers or authority in doing so.

Go, move on, or I will nick you!

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With the sound of sirens in the background, and the two PCSOs conflabbing with their alpha male beat teacher whilst all looking in my direction, I decided to head home before the inevitable name-taking, card confiscating and bogus arrest could happen.

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I uploaded the images to my computer, and after making some basic notes of what was said and done, I returned to Turbo Island within about twenty minutes, only to find no sign of activity – no police, no brew crew, no writhing prisoner.

Whoever that person is, whatever he did or did not do, I hope that he is alright.

===

I am blogging this because it happened right in front of me (I got a faceful of pepperspray too).

I have no idea is the man did or did not threaten sergeant 2978.

What I did see, though, was the man walking away from the police, making no discernible threatening gestures, only for sergeant 2978 to raise up his pepperspray to head height and then gas him at point blank range.

I am concerned on two counts:
The issue of street drinking bans and dispersal orders in my neighbourhood, both in terms of their effectiveness (or otherwise) in actually tackling the issues that supposedly predicate them, and in terms of the police enforcement of them.
The issue of bearing witness to police activity, in light of the concerns raised by photojournalist Marc Vallée and others that clause 75 of the Counter Terrorism Bill will be misused as much as section 44 of the Terrorism Act has been (and, indeed, as they anticipate section 43 will be misused in the future).

[I will return to these themes in the near future, but I have other things I should be doing and I really need to get this blog post up.]

More Carbootballs

Continuing on the Carboot Circus theme, some more links:

Facebook groups:

(Members of 1235hrs 6th October 2008)

[Members as of 2215 hrs 6th October 2008]

<Members as of 1740hrs 7th October 2008>

{Members as of 1917hrs 8th October 2008}

%age = BunKRS effect in change in membership numbers from first mention on this blog to last update.

Other menshes of Carboot Circus:

Bristol blogosphere united by the meme that cannot die… All hail CARBOOT CIRCUS!

Birth of a meme..?

Picking up the meme and running with it:

Eyeing the meme covetously, but restraining themselves:

Other contenders:

  • Bread and Cabot Circus
  • Cahoot Circus
  • Carbon Circus
  • Carrot Circus
  • Circusmead
  • Cornucopia Circus
  • Jesus Building
  • New Broadmead
Edited Friday 14th November to add more links

Stokes Croft 3, gentrifiers 1

Okay, so we lost the battle over Lakota, but it seems like the groundswell of dissent in the area over the massive changes to the cultural and social makeup of our area proposed by developers is finally being heeded by the council… In quick succession the plans to put up apartment blocks and student flats on the sites of Clockwork and the Attic Bar and adjacent to the Bell have all been thrown out!

For more info on this and other developments, stay tuned to the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft and the St. Paul’s Unlimited Community Partnership websites, and check my Nu.Bristol pages.

PS An interesting little vid with Chris Chalkley of PRSC, SC resident Keval Shah and Hogge from the Cube talking about the area and the challenges it faces:

Pity the fool

I try and make sure all comments on here get published – everything bar blatant spam. Even the mental stuff goes up. The only comment I can remember deliberately not approving was one which did the rounds of Bristol blogs, which claimed to be ‘outing’ The Bristol Blogger.

Then after a week away, I noticed this little gem on the comment waiting list. I’m not prepared to sully my lovely Yuppification section with its ignorant, prejudiced, sub-literate witterings, but for the sake of openness I present it here on the wire for you to marvel at.

A few points:

  • Note the meandering, bitter tone, and the switches of target between the area of Stokes Croft itself and its inhabitants, signs perhaps of an addled liver and a restless (and I use the word in its broadest sense here) mind;
  • Appreciate the erratic use (or absence) of eliding apostrophes (“Its full of”, “You can’t go”);
  • Gasp at the daring omission of letters from words – a triumph of expressiveness given poetic balance by the unnecessary addition of letters elsewhere (“The are whores everywhere”, “heroine addicts”);
  • Applaud the confident yet entirely evidence-free assertions of FACT (“Most residents of the croft ARE claiming benefits”, “There are hostels everywhere”), which are sometimes strikingly specific (“It has a crime rate equal to that of Hackney”, “Most residents are…shooting up in the hallways of the 51º02 block”);
  • Take your hat off to the author’s heroic refusal to be bound by outdated concepts of consistent capitalisation or formatting (“the full moon”, “the UK”, “the croft”, “Hackney”);
  • Revel in the bold failure to connect any of the numbered points to the commenter’s initial statement that “Stokes croft needs to be developed”…

I could go on, but I’m sure you, dear reader, have more than enough meat between your teeth already.

Law of the Wring: anti-graffiti attrition continues along the Avon

The Battle of Cumberland & Wapping Roads continues…

I’m not sure how long these anti-graffiti signs have been up – I’ve been past every day since Tuesday, and only noticed them today, as there were some workmen doing what looked like grouting – but already all of them that I could see have been artistically deconstructed :D