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MPs, Unions and campaign groups defend the right to Occupy

 

One year after the Con Dem government criminalised residential squatting their next move is to criminalise all squatting including political occupations.

What would further anti-squatting laws mean for the right to protest?

We do not know exactly what form a new law would take, but we can find some clues. Section 144, the current law against squatting in residential properties is phrased as follows:

(1)A person commits an offence if—
(a)the person is in a residential building as a trespasser having entered it as a trespasser,
(b)the person knows or ought to know that he or she is a trespasser, and
(c)the person is living in the building or intends to live there for any period.

The new law would probably be pretty much the same, but without the word “residential”. Under this law, university occupations, workplace occupations and library occupations would all be outlawed.

Guardian Letter: Government attack on squatting

In September of last year, the government made it a criminal offence to squat unoccupied residential buildings. This move came at a time of a major housing crisis: there are currently around a million unoccupied or empty homes in the UK, and growing homelessness. Squatting is one of Britain’s oldest forms of tenancies, and communities and political movements have grown up around it.

There are now signs that the government is seeking to extend this criminalisation beyond the residential sector. As figures and representatives in the trade union and student movements, we are alarmed by the prospect of such legislation, which we believe may criminalise legitimate forms of direct action. Campus and workplace occupations have played a pivotal role in our movements, and at a time of austerity and massive assaults on education and the welfare state, this government is trying to criminalise resistance by the back door. We urge the government to drop these plans, and we will support workers and students in fighting them

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary
Billy Hayes, CWU General Secretary
Patrick Murphy, NUT National Executive
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Linda Riordan MP
Caroline Lucas MP John Mcdonnell MP
Hannah Dee, Defend The Right To Protest
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Against Cuts
Dannielle Grufferty, NUS Vice President
Vicki Baars, NUS Vice President
Sky Yarlett, NUS LGBT Officer
Rosie Huzzard, NUS National Executive Council
Arianna Tassinari, NUS National Executive Council and international students’ representative
James McAsh – NUS National Executive Council
Michael Chessum, University of London Union President
Val Swain – Network For Police Monitoring
Vica Rogers – Occupy London
Sam Sender – Transition Heathrow
Joseph Blake – SQUASH Campaign
Mike Shaw, Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative
Thais Yanez, Birkbeck College Students Union Anti-racism Anti-fascism officer
Grant Clarke, University of Portsmouth Student Union Activities
Daniel Cooper, University of London Union Vice President
Dominique Ucbas, VP Diversity & Advocacy, University of Strathclyde Students Union
Fairooz Aniqa, VP Diversity and Equality, University of the Creative Arts Student Union
Jamie Green, Vice President of Students’ Union Royal Holloway
Hannah Webb, UCLU External Affairs and Campaigns
Gordon Maloney – NUS Scotland President elect
Edwin Clifford-Coupe, UCLU Education and Campaigns Officer
Simon Furse, Birmingham University Guild VP Education
Alex Peters-Day, LSESU General Secretary
David East, Co-President Elect Democracy & Education, SOAS Students’ Union
Samuel Gaus, Democracy and Communications Officer, UCLU
Howard Littler Campaigns Officer elect, Goldsmiths Students Union
Tom Wragg, Birmingham University Guild, VP Democracy and Resources
Natasha Gorodnitski Ethics, Environment & Operations Officer, UCLU
Matthew Reuben, Royal Holloway Student Union Disabled Students Officer-elect
Daniel Warham – UCLU Democracy and Communications Officer-elect
Beth Sutton- UCLU Women’s Officer elect
Naomi Lauren Beecroft Naomi Beecroft, NCAFC NC
Keir Gallagher, UCLU Education and Campaigns Officer elect
Sean Farmelo, Community Action Officer, University of Birmingham Guild of Students
Abdi-aziz Suleiman, President of Sheffield University students’ union
Aisling Gallagher, NUS-USI Women’s Officer
Luke Durigan, NUS Higher Education Committee
Steve Martin, Farnham Campus Officer, University for the Creative Arts Students’ Union
Edward Maltby, NCAFC NC
Andrew Tindall, NCAFC NC
Dennis Esch, NUS NEC International students’ place
Jo Johnson, NUS NEC Women’s place
Jamie Woodcock, NUS NEC
Phoenix Rainbow, Friern Barnet Library Campaign

1) Write to your MP and raise your concerns. MPs are being asked to tell Grayling what they think, so it’s worth trying to get your one to respond. There’s a sample email here.
2) If you are a member of a student union, trade union or anti-cuts group, talk to your group about endorsing this letter
3) Sign this petition calling for the repeal of section 144, the law making residential squatting criminal.
4) Get in touch with Squash if you’d like to help with our work – info[at]squashcampaign.org
5) Stay tuned for updates and information, and make sure others know about it.

 
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