Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Affront door, part 2, the police

With little or no time to soak in what has just happened or discuss action possibilities with the callout crew and our neighbours, Rhoderocker spots the return of the Sitex van -- accompanied by the police. Already on high alert, we lock ourselves in again and wonder if they are intended for us.

They are.

The Sitex people have called in the police, under the assumption that we have no interest in cooperating over the door. The Sitex official who speaks (and again we don't see the face of) does so with flawed knowledge -- he believes we have removed the stainless steel Sitex mesh and replaced it with a Sitex door that we have stolen from somewhere else.

Flawed knowledge, because of course this is the original door THEY installed.

He starts to whitter on about the deployment of dog patrols as soon as the block has been emptied, to deter squatters, in a kind of whiny voice like the sound of a radio being tuned.

The policeman completely understands that our dispute is a civil matter and that he cannot intervene. He is completely upfront about that, that he's versed in squatters rights. He is only here because the Sitex people have called them in, in their belief that the police are some higher authority that will strike fear into us, who will strong arm us into complying.

Unfortunately, it is this generous 'implied compliment' by the Sitex official that transforms the policeman's behaviour as the talks continue. His presence intended to be passive, the policeman suddenly finds himself able to step up, talking AT us in a manner as though our actions are towards him.

"Okay, I don't want to speak to you now, I want to speak to the other one of you in there. I can see him through the door," he says to Rhoderocker, referring to me.

"You need to show me your ID now. Not some stupid bit of paper with your phone number. I want to see a driver's licence, passport, so if the door goes missing overnight, I can hold you responsible."

"Squatters. Tsk. The sooner they tear this place down, the better."

"You should get a court order," he says to whiny Sitex man, "that'll get them all out."

"Okay, you can go away now, you're starting to annoy me," he spits at Diagram Drawing Electrician, who is standing with them in his guise as legal observer, "Who are you, do you live here? So go away then."

"We can take the door whenever we like," he adds, as though suddenly revealing that he too works for the Sitex company.

And all the while trying to persuade us to open the door to show him our faces. We all know that doing so will put this squat in jeopardy, that we could be kicked out. Any peaceful agreement that invites the police in ends the squat.

Rhoderocker and me are happy for the Sitex door to go, if we can negotiate a date for collection so we install a replacement. Except only Police Guy wants to make that call -- out of nowhere he says, "You have one hour to come up with a new door."

One hour? In which to -- a, find a new door, b, if we have to buy it, where from, c, buy the door and bring it back, d, get tools to install it, z, install it -- no way! Police Guy believes it is possible. We believe it is possible he is a fucking smug jerk who needs a good slap (but nobody says it).

Diagram Drawing Electrician intervenes at this point -- we want to return your door, but let's choose a realistic time. Whiny Sitex man attempts to speak up, only for Police Guy to bulldoze him out of the way.

"You have until 9am tomorrow morning. We will be back here to remove your door," he decides for everyone, probably loving it all as he speaks.

And then that's it. Situation ends. Though Police Guy and mouselike Sitex guy soon fade out, the stench of their hostility remains on our door (sorry, THEIR door). This being my first real confrontation with the police, the ego and arrogrance of this guy and his personalising of the events has been a total surprise. Hostile, and for no reason than maybe his uniform allows for it? A real shock.

And whilst the callout crew consider using the spare door we have as our new front door, I continue on, infuriated by the way we have been judged. We are nothing but squatters who have stolen a door and are refusing to return it -- without asking us if we agreed, this was the portrayal they had chosen for us and were acting upon with their every word.

Damn you squatters, they think, you evil squatters. As opposed to, all human beings together.