Last June the 6th an anti-austerity demonstration took place in Brighton. The “Free Education Movement”, which came from Brighton universities, took the initiative in staging the protest, part of a series that are happening along the country after last election.
There was a decent turn out. A few hundred people marched by Brighton streets against the current and coming attacks on our living conditions. After the last election people are angry and scared, for good reason.
However, nothing really inspiring was heard in the speeches. Vote for Labour or smaller lefty parties, join one of those services providers that are still called unions, lobby our representatives about housing, benefits, work or migration…
However, some people´s patience was running out and the left-wing representatives´s pacification tactics started being ineffective. Thus after the march itinerary finished the people went on walking and… there we were! in Preston Circus in front of an abandoned branch of Barclays Bank.
Then something really unusual happened. A big group of people decided not to wait and not to ask. As the necessity of space for living and gathering has become merchandise thanks to criminals like Barclays, we could not afford to vote, sign petitions or complain to our MP. We broke the door and went in.
For fourteen days a diverse and relatively big group of people faced managing the space, without leaders or public or private funds. Issues such as cleaning and maintenance, legality, security, activities, communication and conviviality were discussed in open meetings and tackled collectively.
Meetings were well attended and, last June the 14th, around seven hundred people visited the building during the opening day.
Obviously something like this terrifies the authorities. In the friendly and welcoming Brighton (for property speculators, exploiters and people with money to spend) this experience is dangerously exemplary. Thus on June the 16th the eviction was ordered by the Court and was carried through on Friday the 19th. In the Radical Bank meetings were usually long, hard and not always very productive. There was a lack of a common vision and strategy about squatting. Several mistakes in the organisation happened and arguments among the people have occurred. However, you can see in many people’s faces that this experience will not be forgotten.
Now is the time to evaluate positive and negative aspects of the experience, but something has been broken in Brighton (apart from a door or a window or whatever). The feelings of fear and resignation and the idea that nothing can be done cannot be held anymore. All Brighton has seen it.
From Brighon-SolFed we cannot do less than congratulate all the participants (among who we include some of ourselves). Despite the limitations, this experience is pointing in the right direction. We will see you in the streets.
Brighton-Solidarity Federation http://www.brightonsolfed.org.uk/