The squatting collective known as the PigeonshitCollective are being evicted from the disused bank on Gloucester Road where they have been working to establish a community centre.
Bailiffs, supported by police, arrived early morning on Wednesday 10th to begin the eviction. As they closed in on the building, one occupant addressed onlookers ‘this is what you get when you try to take something back. We came to create a mutual aid centre and this is how we’re treated. The police are now here for law, not order. And law is about the rich versus the poor.’
The eviction comes after a court ordered an injunction against the squatters at the behest of the building owner. However, the squatters allege that they were not told of the hearing until 45 minutes after it had ended, giving them no chance to represent themselves.
The bank, on the junction of Gloucester Road and Longmead Avenue, has been empty for seven years, with the owner reportedly intending to turn the building into flats.
The squatters had plans to turn the building into a community space. One occupant explained ‘as so many community centres shut down across the city, grassroots organisations don’t have places to organise.
‘We wanted to create a community space for organisations, groups and individuals to use for whatever they needed.
‘Since we moved in we’ve cleaned the place up, brought in furniture, we’ve taught people skills like carpentry and welding.
‘We’ve had amazing outreach with the surrounding community. Everyone’s very supportive.’
By midday, a crowd had begun to gather and the police presence intensified, with 6 vans and several cars present at one point. Police in riot gear were seen entering the building to assist with the eviction.
Although the scene at the eviction was at times tense, the squatters were clear on their positive intentions. ‘We want to reclaim squatting. It has a bad name, connected to drugs and things. But that’s the opposite of what it should be. Squatting is for everyone. It questions what property is and what it is for.’
The surrounding area has been a site of intense gentrification in event years with flats selling for an average price of £241,000 according to Zoopla.
The eviction continued into the afternoon.