On Friday 12th August, three days after the England riots had come to an end, the Conservative Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles declared on the BBC that “looters should be evicted”. David Cameron later that day, had given his “full backing” for councils to evict entire families. Wandsworth Council had already served an eviction notice on Wednesday 10th, to Maite de la Calva even though her 18 year son, Daniel Sartain-Clarke is still yet to be convicted with riot related charges. The mother of two who took no part in the London riots and has stated fear for her 8 year old daughter’s education and well-being, has accused the Local Authority for behaving like “fascists”.
In London, four councils had publicly stated to evict “rioters”, there were two Conservative: Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham, and two Labour: Southwark and Greenwich.
Southwark Council became the first Labour local authority to announce that they sought to evict council tenants if they were convicted of riot-related crimes. Within a few days after 35 households had received a cautionary letter from Southwark Council, a demonstration was quickly called via Facebook. Approximately 40-50 people protested outside Southwark Town Hall, after a haphazard start, it was spontaneously co-ordinated by activists present and Southwark Save Our Services. Though the demo was entirely peaceful, there was a significant presence of private security guards and community wardens wearing stab-proof vests, standing prominently in front of the Town Hall. A video series can be seen here:
From this demonstration a number of residents and campaigners organised a mailing list about the next steps and ensured an anti-“riot evictions” presence at South London council public meetings and “community conversations”. Some Southwark Liberal Democrat councillors argued in meetings against any evictions though had not supported the locally organised campaign. Since then Southwark Council has backtracked and no evictions or further action have taken place.
Greenwich Council started legal proceedings against a tenant of a single occupier tenancy in October. There was a Defend Council Housing co-ordinated demonstration in response last week, and council sources have said that the Labour Council have budgeted hundred of thousands of pounds to pursue at least 20 riot evictions which they expect to lose.
The legal case for riot evictions comes under housing civil law which enables a judge to cancel tenancy if the tenant or a visitor of the tenant causes a nuisance within the “locality”. Due to the riots taking place largely away from housing estates, the legal ground is shaky though “locality” has no legal definition. Eric Pickles supports changing the law to allow councils to evict people from social housing even if the anti-social behaviour happened outside the local authority to prevent what he called “riot tourism”
Haslane, the socialist lawyers society held a meeting on the riot evictions campaign, Unite the Union housing sector workers gave full backing to fight all evictions. Unison workers only supported it in personal capacity. The campaign against riot evictions continues with support from one Wandsworth Labour councillor, the Socialist Worker Party and the Socialist Party.
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