The Focus E15 table is innocent – release it now!
On Saturday 5 December, Focus E15 campaign was holding its regular weekly street stall in Stratford. As usual the campaign had been drawing attention to the housing crisis in Newham where around 5,000 people live in temporary accommodation and where 400 homes lie empty on the Carpenters Estate.
With 40 minutes left to go, a Newham Law Enforcement officer called John Oddie, accompanied by several police, confronted the campaigners, in what was obviously a pre-planned operation.
Having already told the SWP stall to remove their table, the police and law enforcement demanded that we pack up immediately or else they would seize our table, banner and sound system, quoting the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (regarding the sound system) and the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 (regarding the banner and table). However, we were determined that they would not close down our street presence and demanded that our table should be allowed to stay. It was not obstructing anyone and the shopping street is very wide.
The stall has been there, same time, same place, for over two years every week! So why, the campaigners demanded to know, was today the day they chose to harass and threaten Focus E15 campaign’s presence on the streets? Could it be because there is renewed resistance to the council after Newham delivered a blow to the Carpenters Estate by closing down the Tenants Management Organisation last week in an underhand way.
Newham council has borrowed over £500m from the banks, more than any other local authority, and is now paying back millions of pounds in interest each year. Outrageously, over the next 70 years, this will mean that the council will end up paying back over £1bn in interest to the banks, a blatant squandering of public money.
Campaigners tried to negotiate with the council and police. We had not received any complaints by passers-by on the shopping street , but the council and police were determined to make their point and used their force to seize the table. As one Focus E15 campaigner who was there explained:
“It was so ridiculous and absurd seeing the police and council seizing our campaign table and bundling it into a police van as if it were a person being taken to a police station. At the same time we recognise the seriousness of being targeted by the council in this way, but we will not be intimidated. And we want our table back Newham!”
Once the police and council enforcement officer had left with the table, Focus E15 campaigners and other passers-by continued to use their voices and give out leaflets about what had just happened. We will not be intimidated or silenced!
Share this blog post and join Focus E15 campaign on the street next Saturday. Come with your pop up tables! Let us have a big presence at our campaign stall and defend our democratic right to protest.
Saturday 12 December,12-2pm on the Broadway, outside Wilko’s in Stratford E15.
Together we will build this housing campaign, defend our right to protest and continue to demand that the Carpenters Estate is repopulated.