A homeless camp set up in Brighton on April 5th to protest against a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which has been imposed on the city’s parks and seafront was evicted on Wednesday — and activists have responded by taking over a building linked to a £100m development project.
The Circus Street DIY Squatted Social Centre has been set up at the city’s old university building and are planning to hold it as a radical space and rebuke against the council, which they say is socially cleansing Brighton of its homeless by denying them a place to stay and sleep.
In a statement, the occupiers, who are involved in campaigns including Raised, Fist Collective, Screw the System, SolFed, Alt SU, Brighton Anti-Fascists and the camp itself, said:
We have occupied the space for a number of reasons; firstly, to highlight the wealth of empty buildings across the city, in contrast to the rising problem of homelessness, and as a protest against the draconian new social cleansing law, the PSPO, which criminalises the homeless and traveller communities. We will not leave this building until this disgraceful, racist and counterproductive law is repealed, and the council opens up empty council buildings to provide shelter to the homeless rather than criminalising them, as they agreed they would at full council on January 26th.
Secondly, the building has also been occupied, in part, by activists of the ALT S.U. to show solidarity with Precarious Workers Brighton and to pressure Brighton University, who are guilty of imposing demotions and breaking contracts and agreements with some of the most precariously employed teaching staff in the university. We will not leave this building until the university reverses the demotions of Hourly Paid Lecturers in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, reinstates the 70% pay cut, pays them retrospectively for work done at the lower rate, and publicly commits to not attempting to enact these demotions again.
We have been busy turning our new home into a far more positive space than the empty mess we found it in. The space will be used to provide shelter for rough sleepers, and will be used to put on workshops and talks, using the building to educate once again, and to give space for radical groups to come together to share and discuss their politics; a politics which seeks to create a world free from tyranny and oppression, to ensure that no person should go without whilst there is such plenty.
It is a disgrace and a dismal failure of society that people should go without food or shelter when we waste so much and so many buildings lie empty across the country, simply gathering dust or increasing value for rich oligarchs from around the world, who will never even see the inside of the building they “own”. We have more than enough for everyone, and it is these insatiable capitalists — who conquest for ever expanding profits and surplus at the price of every ordinary member of society, and the natural world — who are responsible for the shit storm we find ourselves in, with rising poverty and brewing climate catastrophe.
The homeless camp, which had been based on land next to St Peters Church not covered by the council’s PSPO, was cleared by police on council orders early on Wednesday morning in an action which campaigners say offered no legislative grounds or paperwork. Activists say they were told earlier in the week that they would be able to stay until the end of the month before it was set up for a festival. The campers said:
This is another clear example of those who are supposed to write and uphold the laws abusing their positions of trust and power.When our activists arrived at 9am the homeless had already been evicted and the camp cleared. Apparently they came in at 7.30am. Please share your angry emails and letters with the council and cite your opposition to PSPO.
The camp had until the eviction been receiving solid support from local people, from sanitary products and sleeping bags to firewood and pin badges. Around 200 people are homeless in Brighton at any one time.