Getting the banners out at the start of the action at Potters Field next to City Hall
On Saturday 24th February, we joined activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group in an action to highlight the dire consequences of the housing crisis in London. Regular readers of this blog out in Essex may ask why we went on an action in London when we have more than enough issues relating to housing out here along the estuary. Simply, it’s because what happens in London with housing has a direct impact on the situation out here in southern Essex: A house in Vange owned by…Local Space Stratford – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/a-house-in-vange-owned-by-local-space-stratford/
What exacerbates the housing crisis in London is the construction of block after block of high specification luxury apartment blocks which are all too often left empty to be just brought and sold as investment vehicles by the global super rich. Building homes for the ordinary Londoners whose work keeps the capital functioning is way down on the priority list to kowtowing to the wealthy elite. Sure, there have been promises by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to address the problem and build more ‘affordable’ homes but the pitiful results do not in any way match the rhetoric.
We have the obscenity of workers on low wages with precarious employment conditions being forced to sleep rough. Go to the Stratford Centre (next to its more prestigious neighbour at Westfield) on any evening and you’ll see plenty of rough sleepers trying to get some kip in the relative warmth before undertaking a day’s work. These people are the lucky ones in that they have managed to find some kind of shelter. Many just have to survive as best they can on the freezing streets of London, constantly in fear of assault from those who have swallowed the poison from the right wing media about the ‘undeserving’ poor. One of the speakers at the start of the action pointed out that with the bitterly cold weather to come over the next week or so, we could be witnessing a ‘slow Grenfell’ with scores of rough sleepers freezing to death on the streets of the capital.
The protest started at the privately owned Potters Field next to the Kuwaiti owned City Hall which is where the Greater London Authority (GLA) is based. This was to draw attention to a) the lamentable record of the GLA in providing genuinely affordable housing and b) to how many buildings and what seem to be, but aren’t, public spaces that are owned by the super rich. After a few rousing speeches and a brief stop right outside a windswept City Hall, we proceeded through a luxury housing development down to Tooley Street. We then took the road until London Bridge station before turning a sharp left and making our way to Qatari owned Shard where there was a protest earlier in the month: They couldn’t stop the protest at The Shard – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/they-couldnt-stop-the-protest-at-the-shard/ There were more speeches highlighting the obscenity of empty luxury apartments at the top of The Shard while the homeless freeze in the surrounding streets. The action was finished off with a swift advance to the front of the News Corp building to express our disgust at the demonising of the poor carried out by Murdoch’s papers.
Okay, the numbers who turned out weren’t what we were hoping for. That meant that certain things that were planned couldn’t happen. It was a case of thinking on our feet to deploy what numbers we had in the most effective way possible to get the points about the housing crisis across in the most direct and clearest way possible to the members of the media who turned up to cover the event. The speeches and the interviews left the media and the watching public in no doubt as to what we think of the super rich poncing off the capital while a growing number of Londoners struggle to get a roof over their heads. As for the disparity between the numbers who shared the posters and memes about the protest on social media and those who actually turned up, that’s something we’ll be writing about on our sister blog, On Uncertain Ground sometime later this week.
Security at the front of the News Corp building experiencing a moment of frisson as we approached the entrance
One pile of shite (The Shard) framed by another pile of Shite (the News Corp building) – an axis of evil if ever there was one