A group of activists who occupied an old and unused police station in Camberwell throughout July to protest the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC) were evicted today.
The group, who call themselves Serious Annoyance, moved into the station after occupying and later being evicted from another unused police station on Cavendish Road in Clapham earlier this year.
In a statement that they hung up on the door of the Camberwell station, the group said they ‘will not accept increased police powers which effectively ban protest and criminalise trespass’ and that they will continue to fight against the Bill and its criminalisation of people’s democratic rights.
The PCSC Bill, which passed its third reading in Parliament last month by a majority of 100, has been widely criticised.
Aeon, a member of Serious Annoyance, said that their ultimate goal was to raise awareness among the community of the destructive role of the police if the policing bill were to go through Parliament successfully.
Aeon also highlighted that the group took action to support all people in need, whether they are protestors, homeless people, refugees and migrants who face deportation, or Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities who may face criminal charges for residing on land without permission.
Aeon said: “These are things you can’t read about in mainstream media.
“We are here to protect the right to protest, support the preservation of an ancient, nomadic lifestyle which is being taken away, and to make people aware of social injustice.”
During their occupancy, Serious Annoyance opened the police station’s doors to the community several times, inviting them to take part in workshops, art exhibitions run by local artists, discussions, and music sessions with the aim to transform the derelict building into a community hub and encourage community dialogue.
The old police station, which was previously owned by the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), stopped using its front counter in 2013, and was consequently sold to a private company called MJW13.
Serious Annoyance received an interim possession order (IPO) on 21 July after the police station’s water supply was cut in the midst of a heat wave in the south east of England.
The group called this move a public scandal, saying that it put their health and safety at great risk.
Aeon described the difficulty of trying to keep the building clean without any access to water and expressed her gratitude to local shops and neighbours who provided food and water for the group since the start of their stay.
A local off-license owner said he was shocked that the building’s water supply had been cut during a heat wave, although he was not keen to comment on the politics of the occupancy.
The shop owner said: “Above all they are humans.”
Neighbourhood inspector Tom Cornish said: “The building no longer belongs to the Metropolitan Police Service and the current private sector owners have taken the necessary legal action to eject those who are occupying the building.”
Squatting has a long history in the UK both as a means of protest, and as a solution to housing crises – often providing shelter for vulnerable members of society.
In 2011 the government made it a criminal offence to squat in residential buildings.
Serious Annoyance expressed their worries about the growing homelessness crisis in London and claimed that the abandoned police station could be turned into affordable housing or used by the community as a hub.
Aeon said: “The building shouldn’t be turned into unaffordable housing or something the community cannot use.”
MJW13 declined to comment to South West Londoner.