Saturday, 8 November 2008

Midnight mass (of police)

So, what would you do if 50-60 policemen turned up on your door just after midnight, complete with sniffer dogs, a fleet of vans and plain clothes officers?

Call the, uh, police?

In this case, a non-squatter friend living close by drops me a phone call, full of concern, especially as the squat in question (rampART) is one that has been repeatedly threatened with eviction in recent weeks. Not physically being at our flat to pay this squat a visit, I initiate a round robin of phone calls to dig up information. It turns out that nobody is aware that this situation is even happening!

But even if it is, one main piece of advice being directed my way is -- until a housemate within the squat sends a callout text message to the network cellphone number, we cannot intervene. In fact, we can't do anything, but wait. Wait, whilst more police vans arrive and form a perimeter.

Wait-and-see seems a strange tactic. Even the suggestion that we contact any members of the network who live nearby to detour over there and pop their head around the corner is met with wait-and-see. Who knows, if the housemates have been incapacitated or the cellphone number lost or some other factor is preventing a callout, we could be waiting and seeing for a long time. What happened to just acting?

And what about those squats that ARE NOT part of any network? A squat that is on its own out there, has no back-up, no knowledge of advisory services other than using their noticeboard to find housemates -- if 50 policemen turned up on their door, what could we do for them? Use wait-and-see as well? Must the bat signal go off first for anybody to do something?


Thankfully, the mob of 50 po po disperse after an hour or so of standing around en-masse in their yellow dayglo jackets. A housemate from the squat reassures me this action is nothing to do with them, but thanks for your concern. Thanks to our "civilian on the ground", I am able to pacify the telephone crowd with news of this retreat.

The mini-hysteria settles, my friend is thanked, and Saturday is finally allowed to roll forth uninterrupted. But still these questions remain.