Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Where were you on the night of..

IMMINENT or a speculative 4am.

Either way, tonight, a major squat eviction at rampART is due and the text message bleeping in on my cellphone contains urgency:
"Cops have left, but people reckon eviction will be before tomorrow am (as early as 4am) so asking if people can stay here tonight, help barricade and defend building, and also people be ready to resist outside."
So, what to do next? Do you go? Do you launch yourself forth without question, because as a squatter you've automatically signed an unspoken agreement where you are compelled to act when all squats, any squats, are threatened? That tonight, you must mobilise? Are evening meals being disrupted, squatters downing forks and stepping up?

In the pouring pouring rain, I am caught between going and not being sure.

I envisage hordes of squatters from all over the city, converging in their raging hundreds on the squatter social centre that is in danger. A determined and angry army of activist marchers ready to barricade themselves into the premises and fend off the police no matter what. My housemates amongst them, fists in the air.
'Wanna know what your arrestability is worth -- come and find out today.'
Sat in Kitchen Sink Neighbour's living room with her one-dreadlock housemate, a welcoming cup of very hot tea and a heater ablaze, I ask them plenty of questions, in an attempt to gain a realistic hold on the circumstances from those in "the field" longer. Basically, do you go, without hesitation?

Is not going not an option? Is one indebted to a social centre, regardless of how many times you've used it, because it is imperative that all squatters come out and unite no matter which squat it is or whether you know it? If you've never faced the police this way before, is that an okay reason to hesitate? Even as these questions are being spoken out loud, I can't tell if they're stupid to ask or not.

Without realising it, it seems that, yes, something like peer pressure tinges my enquiries. It's without a doubt that my housemates are most likely there, battening down rampART's hatches the minute the alarm sounded. Seriously, in situations like these, will people suddenly start to develop long memories, stuff of "where were you on the night of.." that can be reminded of when it comes to your own eviction? This peer pressure is surely piercing my common sense.

Both Kitchen Sink Neighbour and One Dreads are pretty relaxed and adamant about not going. The callout has probably attracted enough attendance and anyway, the heater is just doing the business on such a cold night. rampART itself has faced constant eviction threats throughout its four-year history but they're both certain it will endure.

A friend of mine drops a text message during our chat:
"Just play along if [the police] come, they can't do much. They'll just ask you to leave that's all. They can't book you for anything and unless you act like an arse they won't be arsey with you."
Round about 11pm, we learn that 8-12 people are currently holding the fort at rampART. Quietly building barricades and other defenses, they're happily doing so, even if no further assistance from the callout is forthcoming. Of that, 5-6 of them will sleep there overnight, keeping watch. Apparently, what sounds like minuscule numbers is a-okay with them.

Yes, just 5-6 people. No anarchist hordes encircling the building in 10-people-thick moats, arms locked together, defiant, grimacing, growling, ready to fortify.

"Solidarity can be shown in lots of different ways", SoundsNorwegian later says, when she and her friends pop by to look at our meter. I eventually drop by at around 2am. The night air is freezing cold by then, -2c the newspapers will report in the morning. The streets surrounding the centre are dark and empty.

The crew compliment is now roughly 9 people. Barricades and huge wooden posts lodged against doors populate most of the ground floor area. Sawing and tidying up the kitchen are the main tasks, most of which appears finished.

A nonsquatter student I meet reckons the next callout will be when the police are actually here, but until then, it's calm times are ahead for all. The mood is nothing as frenzied as the original callout text messages.

UPDATE: a Scottish friend tells me that no follow-up callout was made at 4am. In fact, no callout at all on the squatters network phone. Nothing since, and it's about 10.08am or so as I jot this update. Perhaps they're okay after all.