The month-long occupation of the former Bank of England site on Castle Street came to an end yesterday, as cops – having starved out the vast majority of occupiers with their siege – arrested the remaining five. Those five have been put in court already, and in the meantime the Labour-supporting Liverpool Echo is covering for the mayor and police with a vicious smear campaign, aimed at reducing the massive public sympathy for the occupiers, and shoring up support for both the police and the austerity agenda of Mayor Joe Anderson.
The Love Activists’ occupation provided food and shelter for scores of homeless people at its peak. By occupying what spokesperson Juliet Edgar described as “a building which symbolised capitalism”, they raised fundamental class issues about in whose interests society is run. The property speculator owners were granted a possession order at the end of April, but the occupiers remained, conscious of the huge levels of public support for their cause.
On 29th April, the occupiers released a list of demands, promising to leave the building if they were met. All these measures, including decent provision for Liverpool’s homeless, were in Mayor Anderson’s gift to give, but he refused to so much as acknowledge the occupation in any public statement. Instead, within hours, cops laid siege to the building. The occupation – including many homeless, was literally starved.
In the early hours of yesterday morning, cops made a move on what remained of the occupation. Streets around the building were sealed off, and occupiers were driven out in what Edgar described as an “overkill” and possibly illegal operation:
“We got a call from a homeless guy. We were told there were police on the roof. It is complete overkill. From our understanding, the police did not have a right to do anything because the legal process had not been completed. We were due in court on Friday to contest the full possession order [sought by the building’s owner to allow bailiffs and police to forcibly evict the occupiers]. Nobody had a right to do anything, we don’t think. There were no bailiffs this morning from what we can understand.”
The remaining occupiers were arrested, and quickly brought before the court, charged with “trespass” on the property of the rich. They all pleaded not guilty, and were bailed until August.
Meanwhile, the propaganda machine has shifted into action, in order to discourage others from taking similar action, or learning class struggle lessons. There have been false reports about people urinating from balconies onto the street, ‘stealing’ war memorials, and – most bizarrely – costing the police a lot of money.
The capitalist state allocates its money according to the priorities of the ruling class. In this case, Liverpool and perhaps even national elites decided to spend £200,000 on a round-the-clock siege, rather than, say, caring for some of the homeless. Why? Because homelessness is actually good for the capitalist system. It allows governments to lower taxes for the rich with the money which would otherwise provide for the homeless, or even bail out some bankers with it. More than this, visible homelessness also acts as a deterrent for other working class people who are thinking of challenging their bosses, and therefore helps lower wage costs. So if £200,000 has to be spent to deprive some specific homeless people of food and shelter, and to persecute some activists, then actually it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the social gain the rich make from homelessness.
The Echo is pumping out this propaganda precisely because the occupation gained public support to remain even after the court order was granted, in an encouraging display of class consciousness from the people of Liverpool. The Love Activists will need much solidarity in the months ahead, as the ruling class tries to turn their inspiring story into a crushing example of the state’s supposedly overwhelming power.