You win some, you lose some

Our community house is now facing imminent eviction, we shut down Barnet Homes for 2 hours, a judge told Barnet Council that they can’t use high court bailiffs against Mostafa, and we were told that ‘no county court bailiffs will touch Sweets Way with a barge pole’!

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COMMUNITY HOUSE FACING EVICTION
Thursday began with an early start, prepping for and heading to the courts in Finchley Central in the rain. Our five-month old community occupation was up against a possession order. We knew there was precious little legal defence for our presence in the house, since most judges don’t seem as impressed as us that we have used our occupation to reinforce a powerful community in the face of deliberate attempts to destroy it, but we had to give it a go.

Unsurprisingly, we lost. Quickly. And the judge accepted the claimant’s assertion that High Court (not County Court) bailiffs would be required to remove us, since, according to the claimant’s barrister, ‘no county court bailiffs will touch Sweets Way with a barge pole.’ This comment was probably the only silver lining of a pretty bleak morning, and seems to be an indication that we’re doing something right. We assume all the county court bailiffs in London are taking a principled stand in solidarity with our struggle for housing justice by refusing to evict us.

WE SHUT DOWN BARNET HOMES!
IMG_20150827_124448From the courts, we went to Barnet Homes to protest the treatment Mostafa and his family have faced, and to make a series of demands that Barnet Homes needs to meet immediately to address the family’s needs. We shut down the building, at both entrances at several points over a two or three hour period, making crystal clear that if they continue to fail Mostafa and so many others, we will continue to make business-as-usual impossible for them.

MOSTAFA’S TEMPORARY COURTROOM VICTORY
Then, just as we were leaving, we heard from Mostafa, who had spent the morning at the Royal Courts of Justice, applying for a stay of execution on Barnet Council’s decision to allow High Court bailiffs to evict him without offering a time and date. What we all thought would have been a bureaucratic formality, turned out to be a major victory for the family and the campaign. Mostafa saw a judge, who was able to see Barnet’s utter lack of sensitivity over his needs as a person with disabilities and made clear that the Council would need to immediately cease any pending High Court bailiff actions and find a date to have a full and proper hearing to justify why they think they needed to do so in the first place.

This means that there will be at least weeks, possibly months, before the family have to leave their home, if Barnet continues to fail to offer them a suitable alternative. It also mean Mostafa will finally get a day in court to explain why he feels a High Court bailiff eviction is entirely unfair and disproportionate to the situation, after the decision to use High Court bailiffs against him was taken in secret, without his knowledge.

For once in the campaign, the justice system actually ruled on the side of justice! We won’t get too used to this, but it certainly helped balance out the legal ruling against our community home.

WE NEED REINFORCEMENTS
For the immediate future, we need people who are able to come stay the night at 76 Oakleigh Road North, to be able to help defend this crucial pocket of community strength we’ve held onto since Annington began evicting families from the estate.

If you think you can come along, please drop us an email on: sweetswayresists[AT]gmail.com

Three months old! (And some nice things you could support us with)

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***UPDATED LIST AS OF 14 June 2015, based on all of your amazing generosity***

As of Monday, June 8, the Sweets Way Resists occupation is three months old! We didn’t really expect to be here this long, but thanks to the support of Focus E15, Barnet Housing Action and countless amazing people, we are still going strong, fighting the social cleansing agendas of Barnet Council and Annington Homes. Thank you to all of you who have helped us get to this point!

We’re also the longest-running political housing occupation in London, and aim to keep getting in the way of the re-development plans for the Sweets Way estate, and supporting one another through the ongoing struggles of living in the London Borough of Barnet, without six-figure salaries.

We had a little BBQ to celebrate, and it reminded us that there are a range of things that would make the campaign and the occupation stronger and easier in the coming months. Here’s a bit of a bucket list, should you have any of the below items around – big or small – and feel like being generous with them:

  • Single bed box springs or frame
  • King bed box spring or frame
  • Portable sound system (for street stalls and protests. This kinda thing )
  • Washing machine (if you had this many kids running around, you’d understand why…)
  • Non-perishable food
  • Banner making materials (more banners = more ways to highlight the issues)
  • Double and king-size bedding
  • Cups/glasses
  • Garden chairs (because it’s almost summer and we want to be out in the yard talking to the neighbours)

This campaign has been going for three months on almost zero budget, but this has only been possible because so many of you have been so generous in other ways. If you can help with any of the above, no matter how big or small, we promise to use them to support our ongoing fight for a fair Barnet that all of us can continue to live in, regardless of our income level.

As always, you can drop them by in person to the Sweets Way community house, 76 Oakleigh Road North, London, N20 9EZ. Drop by and pop-in for a cuppa! Send us an email (sweetswayresists @ gmail .com) if you have any questions about any of the above.

Thanks again for all the support that has got us this far!

PRESS RELEASE: Sweets Way campaigners plan weekend of fun and resistance in new occupation

Sweets Way Resists

Press release – Thursday 2 April

Sweets Way campaigners plan weekend of fun and resistance in new occupation

Residents fighting for their homes have occupied an empty house backing onto the Sweets Way estate in Barnet in ongoing protest at tenant evictions. Campaigners are planning a weekend of community fun and resistance in the property which is part of the ‘Sweets Park’ redevelopment.

On Monday a county court ruled against residents following a three-week political occupation of empty homes including 60 Sweets Way, which had been turned into a thriving social centre and campaign hub. A judge granted full possession of the site to developer Annington Homes, who also requested an injunction preventing people from protesting on the estate.

In a further assault on human rights and an indictment of the court system, campaigners have not been given the details of any potential injunction, even though it potentially criminalises protesters, residents and the public at large.

Immediately following Monday’s ruling, residents and supporters occupied an empty five bedroom house, part of Annington’s ‘Sweets Park’ development area – but just beyond the possession and potential injunction zones. A weekend of fun and resistance is planned in the new occupation, including an ‘Easter Fun Day’, debate and action-planning.

Sweets Way estate is home to over 150 families. Residents were forced to leave their homes in February and moved to temporary accommodation out of the borough. Since then, they have been fighting for the right to go back to the estate and in an effort to stop the development, occupied an empty house, supported by housing campaigns Focus E15 and Barnet Housing Action Group.

Since the occupation began in early March, a handful of residents have been offered temporary accommodation in borough by Barnet Council. But campaigners, known as ‘Sweets Way Resists’, won’t stop until all of the residents are offered suitable alternative housing.

The occupations are a political statement about the criminality of destroying perfectly good houses and replacing them with investment properties. Sweets Way Resists are also staging lunchtime protests at the central London offices of Annington, to shame the company.

Annington (part owned by tax exile Guy Hands worth an estimated £250 million) looks set to make a killing on the London property market. Only 11% of the new properties in the planned redevelopment are being leased as ‘affordable rent’ (80% of market rates).

A spokesperson said: “We’re not going to stop: we’re planning to keep the question of social cleansing on the agenda, and support one another as we fight to protect the estate from demolition and secure decent homes for all residents who have been forced out of Sweets Way.

“Our new occupation has all the makings of a fantastic place for community celebration over the Easter weekend. It’s an outrage that this five-bedroom property lies empty while right next door, people are losing their homes.

“Monday’s court ruling was a predictably unfair legal decision in which private property rights are deemed more important than human rights. As well as granting Annington possession over the whole of the estate, they have proposed an injunction on the site! This is worrying for anyone involved in housing justice work and political protest. In addition, the court has so little respect for us that they have neglected to clarify what the injunction means.

“There’s a Mexican proverb that feels appropriate for us: ‘They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds.’”

Sweets Way Resists – the fight continues!

Thursday 2 April Lunchtime Protest at the central London office of developer Annington Homes.

See Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1609138512633464/

Sunday 5 April Easter Fun Day, 12-4pm

Easter Egg Hunt, BBQ, Children’s Fun and Games, Bouncy Castle, Arts and Crafts

Egg Decorating, Rabbits, Music

Tuesday 7 April Public Meeting at the new occupation, 7.30pm

The new occupation is at 76 Oakleigh Road North, N20.

Twitter @SweetsWay20

Facebook.com/SweetsWayResists

Sweetswayresists.wordpress.com

Sign the petition on Change.org – 62,000 have signed already!

For more information and interviews please contact Katya 07791018631

The family was growing and it was time for a bigger place… The Sweets Way social centre has moved!

Sweets Way Resists responds to a predictably unfair legal decision and gets on with fighting social cleansing.

Today one of the most long-standing principles of British law was reinforced: that private property rights hold greater importance than human rights. A Barnet County Court judge decided to rule against our protest and social centre occupation on the Sweets Way estate, in favour of social cleansing property firm, Annington, even though agreeing with most of our arguments in the courtroom.

Not only did they grant Annington possession over the 160 or so homes of the Sweets Way estate, they even gave them an injunction against future protests taking place anywhere on the site! This is unprecedented and a worryingly draconian case for all involved in housing justice work. However, as long as private property is deemed more legally important than a range of human rights, this kind of thing will happen.

But what happened after the injunction is truly remarkable!

Upon our return from court, we found that the social centre at 60 Sweets Way had been emptied of all the things that made it beautiful. Meanwhile a new property – a five bedroom at 76 Oakleigh Road North also slated to be demolished as part of the Annington ‘regeneration,’ but just beyond the injunction and possession zones – had been occupied and filled with all the makings of a new social centre!

There’s a Mexican proverb that feels appropriate for us today:

‘They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds.’

The courts may be stacked against us in the fight for decent homes, but the courts have never been where our power lies. Every time they try to shovel another heap of dirt on top of us and hope we’ll go away, we shoot up through the soil with another burst of strength!

So we lost in the courts, but we won in the homes of Sweets Way! And we’ll be here to keep the question of social cleansing on the agenda, and support one another as we fight to protect these buildings from demolition and secure decent homes for all those who have already been forced out of Sweets Way.

As always, come pay us a visit (We’re on Oakleigh Road North now, backing onto Sweets Way), send us food and household stuff if you are able to, keep calling Annington’s offices, and sign the petition to stop the demolition of Sweets Way!

Together, we can defeat giants!

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