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  • Beth Johnstone

Squatting in 2021: Cavendish Road London

© 47 Cavendish Road, Photograph by INJECTION - Beth Johnstone

A squat in its infancy: visiting the newly occupied former Clapham Common Police Station

The message being amplified by a protest site is rarely clearer or stronger than in its first few days of existence. There’s a fierce sense of purpose. An urgency. Simultaneous feelings of triumph and cynicism – any positive feelings about securing and holding the site are overwhelmed by anger at the state of the system and the conditions which make their protest so important. All of this is palpable at the former Clapham Common Police Station, located at 47 Cavendish Road, which has been occupied by a group of political activists since Sunday 21st March 2021.

To the average person, footage of police vans burning in Bristol on Saturday 20th March and images of young women being aggressively man-handled by police in Clapham Common a week previous may appear to be only loosely related. For those currently occupying 47 Cavendish Road, the two are symptoms of the same problem. Both stem from a violent and corrupt government and police system, and it’s the fight against these oppressive powers that brings activists to Cavendish Road.

The short walk from Clapham Common to this newly squatted site feels like inspecting a wound. “RIP SARAH” is spray-painted across the park, which is virtually empty, despite it being one of the warmest, sunniest days of the year so far. Cavendish Road has all the indicators of a middle-class London street – today, as they shove expensive pushchairs over the cracks and bumps in the pavement, its residents look nervous. An elderly woman stops to take a picture of the squat, which is draped in direct messages – “ABOLISH THE POLICE” and “ACAB” (all cops are bastards). A spotlight is shining on their neighbourhood in the worst possible way, and these polite, well-behaved people don’t know quite what to do about it.

© Clapham Common, Photograph - Beth Johnstone

The activists inside released a statement on Sunday, in which they call for unification in the fight “against the ongoing global femicide” highlighted by the deaths of women like Sarah Everard and Blessing Olusegun. They also “demand withdrawal of the Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill”, which was first proposed by the Tories in January and threatens to criminalise trespass, which is currently a civil offence in England. Activists believe this Bill “will affect predominantly travellers and van dwellers but also squatters, protest camps and the homeless.” There is a high level of public opposition to the Bill – a petition on the UK Government and Parliament website, ‘Don’t criminalise trespass’, was signed by 134,928 people.

© 47 Cavendish Road, Photograph by INJECTION - Beth Johnstone

For squatters and political activists, this Bill is a direct attack on their right to protest, hence the intense pushback. On Saturday 20th March, Bristol’s ‘Kill the Bill’ protest saw their collective rage pour out dramatically – police vans were burned and people were injured. But the fight is far from over. Tuesday 23rd March is a day of action, organised by RA-T (Resist Anti-Trespass). The group have created RA-T stamps to be tied to shoes; activists will then roll paint onto the bottom of their boots and spread their message across the streets.

Though not everyone will support their approach, the Bill they oppose impacts us all, and threatens to completely alter our relationship with the land we inhabit. Whether you’re a political activist, traveller, hiker or dog walker, this is something we should all be taking notice of.

This is the second article in our ‘Squatting in 2021’ series. To read the previous article, click here.

To stay up-to-date about the RA-T movement and occupation of 47 Cavendish Road,


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