Every month Focus E15 campaign holds a public meeting at Sylvia’s Corner in Stratford. Public meetings are where Focus E15 campaigners network with other groups, share information and meet local residents engaged in fighting for secure housing. The campaign is always trying to find ways to bring housing issues out into the public domain and challenge the local power structures in Newham by exposing the council’s appalling record of social cleansing and finding opportunities to take direct action.
It is always such a pleasure to welcome outside guests to these meetings. At the last meeting of the year in December 2017 the campaign was fortunate to have a presentation from Taisa Sanches who gave a talk about the housing situation in Brazil and the large squatters movement in Rio de Janeiro as she shared her PhD research. We thought followers of this blog would appreciate reading about what we learnt at the campaign meeting. Here are just some of the facts that Taisa presented to us:
- In Brazil 6.2 million families (more then 20 million people) do not have a secure home. This number includes people who live on the street as well as those who pay rent which is higher then their wage or where more than one family live in the same house.
- In Brazil there was a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. Social movements bravely fought to end the dictatorship.
- In 1988 the first constitution was written after the fall of the dictatorship. There was a lull in the amount of social activism but soon new movements appear – housing was soon on the agenda again!
- During the 1990’s neo-liberal and privatisation policies set in, worsening conditions for the poor. There are a number of growing social movements.
- During 1990’s there was the Favela-Barrio program which saw new policies of urbanisation of the poorest areas of the city – but only those close to tourist places. Social movements demanded more urbanisation of the favelas as a way of improving the condition of poor quality housing.
- 1997 MTST – national movement of homeless workers emerges.
- 2000’s – increasing violence against favela dwellers is justified by the government in the name of ‘public security’.
- 2014 World cup and 2016 Olympic games saw the removal of 67,000 people from the poorest areas of Rio. Housing campaigns emerge to resist evictions.
We were struck by some of the similarities of what happens to areas which host the Olympic games as ‘regeneration’ is used as the buzz word to clear away social housing (in East London the second largest housing coop in Europe was bulldozed to make way for the Olympic Village, which was then sold off to a Qatari ruling family in 2011). We then had a discussion about learning from other struggles, the meaning of effective solidarity and the importance of having a platform to organise from during the savage housing crisis in London. Campaigners from East London were inspired by the active resistance shown by campaigners in Rio and thought that sharing tactics and ideas is an important way of raising awareness of housing struggles that occur internationally. At the end of the meeting we made a video with a message of solidarity to housing campaigners in Rio.
Our next public campaign meeting will be at Sylvia’s Corner, 96 Aldworth Rd, Saturday 6 January 2018 at 2.30pm. If you would like to speak at our campaign meeting please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org