June 23, 2017

Confronting the Raids | 2017

My phone vibrates. I find the text. My heart is pounding. I check my clothes are indistinct and make sure I have a cover for my face. There is no time to hang around; time is against us.
I jump on my bike and cycle as fast as I can down the road. There are already a dozen officers. A couple of people in handcuffs. I decide to go and look for the vans.

They’re all parked in some backstreet. Easy enough to disable. As I get near, a lonely cop and their radio stare me out. I exchange a few insults and move on. Inside I feel paralysed. My desire rots away in indecision. In the distance I see them on their way back with the people they’ve kidnapped. I stay around until they come, exchange a few more insults with the border officers. I am still on my own and I wish I could only have a familiar face around me. I hate seeing myself feeling weak. I am watching them manoeuvring around in the narrow street. Them looking smug with people in their cages. Me feeling so disgusted with the situation, with myself for not acting on it. My frustration and anger reaching new levels. And yet I am letting them go.

I can’t let them go. Following them further down the road, at my surprise: some friendly faces, covered. And as they appear, a rush of joy overtakes me. Finally moving me into action. Desire and determination burning. My blood rushes from head to toes and back again. I go on the attack.

 

Event Announcement – became the founding of the London Coalition Against Poverty | 2007

Direct Action Against Poverty Network Discussion

7:30 – 9:00pm Thursday 26 April 2007

62 Marchmont St, WC1N 1AB

We are a group of advice workers, community activists and poor people who deal with the impact of poverty and social exclusion on a day to day basis. As advice workers, we know our work is beneficial, but often feel like we are treading water. Therefore, we want to explore ways that we can take radical action concerning the issues of poverty that we and our clients face…

…We take some inspiration from the work of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), based in Eastern Canada. OCAP’s uses direct action, combined with legal work, to make the institutions involved take swift action on a person’s case. These actions can take the form of delegations to government/council offices, picketing businesses in the private sector, etc. Examples in the past have included targeting airliners which carry out deportations, squatting council housing to prevent privatisation, and occupying local housing/benefits offices. These tactics have been incredibly successful over the last fifteen years, both in terms of solving people’s cases quickly and in bringing poor people into an empowering movement for social change…

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss what elements of common ground we can find and explore ways of starting this type of movement in London…

 

Report from a London Coalition Against Poverty meeting [abridged] | 2017

Despite compiling a long list of the problems we face – including issues relating to organising our groups, common housing problems we face, as well as much bigger issues and policies that affect and will affect us – our list of successes is longer.

Our most recent LCAP general meeting was hosted on Saturday 1st April. These general meetings bring together other groups in the coalition and other sister groups from across London who organise practical solidarity, mutual support and collective action. As well as the regular LCAP housing groups from across London, Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth were joined by Housing Action Greenwich and Lewisham, North East London Migrant Action, and Latin American Women’s Aid. The LCAP general meetings (which are supposed to happen every three months or so) are really valuable chances for our local groups to meet together to share tactics, ideas, problems, and experiences, as well as to discuss how we can co-ordinate and link up better between our groups.

During the meeting we split into smaller groups to focus on a topic or issue that we wanted to work on and to make it easier for people to contribute to the discussion. We looked at internal group issues: how to increase membership and build a group up and how to share out work within our groups. For wider issues we looked at: housing and migrant rights, private landlords, and the introduction of 5 year council tenancies as part of the Housing and Planning Act. We made sure our discussions were action point focussed so that we could return as a big group with some concrete steps.

Many of our members have children and children’s activities at all of our meetings is something we are trying hard to improve. For this LCAP meeting we had three adults who helped facilitate children’s activities, including the creation of a beautiful ‘homes not borders’ banner. The children themselves also provided a helpful reminder towards the end of the meeting that it was time to finish and have cake; they did this by running around us in a circle with increasing ferocity.

 

Starting a project to support people who want to make a complaint against the police | 2016

There was something really clarifying about drawing up plans for how the project would function, what role the small number of organisers who were trained lawyers would play, versus other volunteers that would be recruited. What would be the relationship between them? How would that work out in practice when working with a complainant? We thrashed this out in a couple of meetings and drafts and re-drafts of strategy documents. It was in these moments that I saw that we could actually name and describe what it was we wanted to do. And if we could describe it, we could imagine it, and we could do it.

 

Confronting the Raids | 2016

At about 7:30 on a Thursday evening, saw a guy coming out of the big tesco on Morning Lane wearing full navy blue – his shirt had unmarked epaulettes so I thought he might be from immigration. He walked towards 3 immigration enforcement vans that were parked together in the car park. A group of them were clustered around the vans, most of them also in unmarked epaulettes… When I asked where they were going he said they were finished and going home for the day. I asked if they had a warrant for the raids today and he said yes, then launched into a massive rant…

… “We just carry out the law, and the law isn’t there for us to question. You voted in the election, and you reap what you sow. I don’t vote in elections because whoever the government is, I just have to carry out what they say”. He talked for a long time – he said that his job is to protect people like me, just like the police. “I’m paid with taxpayers money, and if I don’t do my job you’ll be complaining. It’s like the police – you might hate the police but if somebody hurts you, who’s the first people you’re gonna go to?” …

…It didn’t make much sense to me but he continued in that vein for at least a minute and a half. I said we were probably never going to agree and he said that’s the best thing about Britain, you’re allowed to disagree. Then we said goodbye and they left, I didn’t see where to.

 

On Meetings & Affinity | 2011

Three of us initially met to plot in a cafe. There we decided to organise a meeting of people we know would want to get involved. Unfortunately, the meeting ended up on a semi-public forum and 50 people turned up. I hate the dynamics of big meetings; they remind me of the privileged place of the assembly in politics. Yet the place where nothing emerges – pure inertia. Restraining desire to act.

Luckily, most people had come as consumers so within a few weeks only those whose desire was still burning remained engaged. Since then, a set of meaningful relationships has been growing through organising informally. These connections grew not out of identity but from the common ends and differences we shared. There was never any privileged entry point or leadership in question. Just a small group of people with no name focusing outward, talking tactics, writing collectively, taking action. Friendships grew from nothing by fighting against the state and its border dogs.

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