An attempt to liberate a vacant council flat for a homeless mother and her children
ireland / britain |
community struggles |
Friday September 18, 2015 05:19 by Joe Conlon - WSM
Myself and some comrades were approached by a young mother from Coolock (a working class neighborhood in Dublin) that recently became homeless. The woman and her children became homeless a few weeks previous. While her kids are in school during the day the mother either walks the streets or calls into friends or family member’s homes. When school has ended for the day they have to rely on family and friends to let them stay in their homes. Sometimes the mother has to split her children up so that she’d definitely have a roof over all her kid’s heads for the night.
She had to leave the house she was renting because of the condition the house was in. She went to Dublin City Council (DCC) and because of the advice given to her by the council she registered herself as being homeless. She asked the council to be put up in one of the state’s homeless hostels or money for a hotel room or a B&B. She was told there is no more spaces left in the hostels, but the council would give her money for a hotel room or B&B. The young mother spent days then weeks trying to get a room in a hotel or B&B that would be suitable for her and her children, but to no avail. She had to survive from the good will of her friends and family.
Myself and my comrades were approached because of our involvement the Barricade inn (squatted anarchist social centre) and the squatting movement. We were told about some council flats that have been left vacant in Kilmore flat complex in Dublin’s north side, the information was given to us from comrades that are from Coolock. Our comrades made contact with people that live in the neighborhood where the flat complex are. The people that live in the area were in support of the young mother and her children moving into one of the flats. Altogether there are 3 flats that are left boarded up and vacant. One flat in particular is used by council workers (the flat is a 3 bedroom flat and totally livable), this is the flat we decided to go for as it could not be said we were taking someone else flat that was waiting on the council housing waiting list.
On 30th of August, a Sunday evening we decided to liberate the flat. We went to Kilmore and met with local comrades and liberated the flat. When we got in we were shocked by how much of a good condition the flat is in. Everything worked; in the bathroom there is a toilet, sink, bathtub and shower everything worked including the hot water; in the kitchen there is a fridge and freezer (with food, milk and drinks in it), sink with hot and cold water, kitchen cabinets (which had food, tea and coffee in them) and a small grill/cooker; there were 3 bedrooms that were used by the council workers as storage, the storage consisted of sweeping brushes, step ladders, spades, syringe disposable containers, rubbish picker upper stick, rolls of rubbish bags, bins, work cloths and highfizz jackets, power hose and few small tools; in the sitting room there are sofas and chairs; throughout the flat the electricity, lights work and central heating work, none of the windows are broke.
While the Irish state is going through the worse housing and homeless crisis it has ever seen the council are using a 3 bedroom flat as a storage unit and a place to hang round drinking tea and eating burgers. People have to sleep rough; even people that have kids are having to sleep in parks with their children. All because of rising rent prices, lack of available emergency accommodation, lack of social housing.
After we liberated and made the flat secure, people from the neighborhood called in with flasks of tea and sandwiches for us. We chated with the locals and showed them round the flat, they were in shock that the council used this place to hang round in instead of housing a family in it, they were very happy that the flat was now getting put to use. Myself and one comrade set ourselves in for the night. The plan was for the woman and her children to move into the flat at 9.30 am the following morning.
At 7.10am a council worker arrived at the flat trying to get in the door. Above the door there is a gap of about 2 or 3 inches, I stood on a stepladder to talk to the worker on the other side of the door. I asked the worker who he was; he replied with his name, I told him I don’t know that name. The worker stood there for a minute with a confused look on his face, he must have been thinking what was going on. He hesitantly walked out into the car park.
After about 10 to 15 minutes a Garda squad car (police car) pulled into the flats. Two cops got out of the car and talked to the council worker, after about a minute the 2 cops came to the door of the flat and knocked. I claimed back up the step ladder to talk to them. I asked the garda what did they want? One said they got a report of a brake in, I said there was no brake in here. The garda asked could I open the door so he could talk to me, I said no I don’t have to do that. He then asked was I living in the flat, I told him I was, he then said sure then you can open the door to me and we can have a chat. I said no I’m not going to do that; I can talk to yous perfectly like this. The other guard butted in saying it’s not your flat you are trespassing. I told him I’m not trespassing I live here. He then said how can you live there? The council workers use it for work. I then said well it’s a civil matter between myself and the council then, it has nothing to do with the Gardai. The 2 Garda broke into laughter.
The 2 then continued for about 5 minutes telling me to open the door and I replying with I don’t have to open the door. They walked into the car park of the flats. Over the next few minutes more cops(which include riot van, 2 undercover cars drove by detectives and 2 or 3 more squad cars) arrived and more council workers arrived. As the garda were arriving 2 locals came on the seen in support of us inside the flat, they were telling the Gardai it was nothing to do with them it was a civil matter no law was broke.
Gardai came to the kitchen window shouting in to us inside. From the outside the window was boarded up with steal but here was a small gap up the top of the steal where a person could look in or out of the window. I positioned the step ladder at the kitchen window so I could speak to the cops outside more clearly. The conversation was the same as the one we had previously, repeating the same, the garda telling us we are trespassing, us saying we haven’t trespassed, we live here this our home, how are we trespassing? The Garda telling us we are breaking the law, I asked them under what section of the law are breaking, they couldn’t reply, they had no answer. As I kept on repeating what section are we breaking when they kept saying we are trespassing and breaking the law; some of the Gardai were getting more annoyed and were starting to use insults calling me speeky and calling us scumbags. One tall young cop that wasn’t talking suddenly came forward angrily stating that “yous better open the door and make things easy on yourselves” I said “Im not going to open the door” the angry guard then said “if you don’t opened the door yous will be fucked, so just make it easier on yourselves. If yous don’t open the door we are going to smash down the door, yous will be charged with burglary, yous will then go to the joy (Mount Joy prison) and you will be rode (sexual intercourse) by a big black fella.” Other Gardai were saying that we’ll be sorry when they smash in the door and that we won’t be so smart then.
As this was going on other cops were tying tape to lampposts and sealing off the area on front of the flats and the path. Two gaurds took riot shields out of the riot van. A detective took a big crow bar out of one of the undercover garda cars. The Garda came to the door; the detective stuck the crowbar into the gap in the door and started to wedge the door. I went to the door and could see the steal door bend from the steal door frame. I knew they were going to be in the flat in seconds.
Myself and my comrade went into the sitting room and sat on the sofas. As we sat down the door popped open. The chair I was sitting on was facing the hallway that led to the front door. I seen 2 cops slow edge in round the corner from the front door, they were crouched down behind their riot shields, slowly edged their way down the hallway, looking in each room on their way. To me it looked like some type of formation that a SWAT team would use when they are entering a building that they think might be dangerous. The cops crouched down behind the shields making sure not to expose their bodies, edging ever so slowly through the hallway, making sure each room was clear; they looked like something off sky news or some action movie.
When the Garda reached the sitting room the slowly entered the room crouched behind their shields. I could see the look of fright and fear on their faces. When the 2 cops seen me and my comrade, they realised there was no danger from us. The pair immediately stood up and more cops entered the room, the atmosphere had totally changed from tense and anger to relaxing. The older cops began talking to us like we were children saying things like “aren’t yous a bit old for this carry on” and saying “the council workers couldn’t work because of us”, one detective said “do yous understand the concept of work?”. They start saying again that we were trespassing and were breaking the law, I repeated we haven’t broke any law, and then repeated if we’ve broke a law tell me what section we’ve broke? There was no reply. They then started repeating that the workers couldn’t start work because we took over their work station. My comrade said to the cops “what about the homeless people that have to sleep rough? What about the parents and their children that have to sleep rough? Why isn’t this flat used to house people in need?” The cops were then pretending to be sympathetic saying “we don’t think that is right either”, “there’s nothing we can do about that, it’s not our job. But yous can’t be just breaking into places”.
It was very strange how the cops went from totally antagonistic and vulgar to us; to then trying to be nicer than nice to us. They then told us we were under arrest, I said for what exactly? One cop said for trespassing. I then replied, with what section? He said trespassing. I then said you have to tell us exactly what section you are arresting us under or else you can’t arrest us. It made no difference, they handcuffed us and brought us outside and put us in the back of the riot van.
The arresting officer didn’t drive the riot van, 2 younger cops did. As they drove us to the garda station, myself and my comrade could hear the two cops talking with each other. They were discussing the different section there are and how they get themselves get confused with the different section and they don’t even know what some of the sections are.
When we got to the station the cops took us out and began the process of booking us in. The arresting officer came to the booking in area with us. When the cop that was booking us in asked what section we were being arrested under the arresting cop told him what section. I turned round and laughed saying “ah your mate must have told you the section in the car” the cop turned round with a smile on his face pretending to be confused “which mate” he replied “the other copper in the car you drove here with, you didn’t know the section when you arrested us and you refused to tell us” I replied. He continued smiling pretending to be confused “what do you mean? I did so tell you what section yous were being arrested for”, I just laughed and shock my head.
After 2 hours myself and my comrade were released, I was charged with section 11 trespassing with intent to commit a crime, my comrade was given a warning as it was his first time being arrested. The flat still hasn't been used to house a family, council workers still use it to hang round in and store their sweeping brushes.
WORDS: Joe Conlon