Exclusive Inside Look: Protesters Take Over English Bank

April 20, 2015
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Exclusive Inside Look: Protesters Take Over English Bank

A broad left-leaning coalition of individuals from a number of different interest groups have taken over a disused bank building with the aim of highlighting their causes and ultimately setting up a homeless shelter in Liverpool, England.

The occupation of the bank building in the city centre began on the morning of Saturday April 18. Those involved were quick to make their entry, barricade doors and windows and strip other rooms in the building to reinforce said barricades. A number of others milled about inside, setting up rooms for free libraries, free shops and community spaces.

I was the first journalist to be allowed access to the occupied building and met with Danny Freeman, the ‘leader’ of the operation. As he took me around the building, we toured the vaults and the maze of offices, bathrooms/showers and other areas that had since been commandeered. Outside on the second floor balcony, a number of banners hung down proclaiming the group’s aims and intentions. Passers-by were entranced by the spectacle, taking pictures and exchanging greetings with those standing on the balconies. Drivers beeped their horns as they drove past in solidarity. Here’s a number of views from inside the occupied building:



I spoke with two of the main people involved, Danny and Jack, who explained how and why this has come about.

Why are you here?

Danny: I am here to reclaim the banks. This is a public repossession for unjustified austerity cuts made as a result of the public funds that were sunk into the bailout of the banks from 2008 onwards.

Do you have any other motives?

Danny: Our motives are to use the space to revitalize the idea of community and society and reunite people as equals and nurture this towards creating a space where people can share ideas, share themselves, and work towards a society which truly promotes justice and freedom.

Had this event been in the works for a long time or not?

Danny: This is something that began… inspired through… the directional facilitated efforts supplied by a wonderful man known as Phoenix who has many years’ experience in squatting and setting up community centers. He helped out the Love Activists in a Christmas occupation of an RBS bank and from there we have decided – as a collective – to continue repossessing bank buildings and using them as a community space. While there is [an estimated] 1.5 million buildings and only 110,000 registered homeless, there’s absolutely no reason why these buildings should be left completely unused for this length of time. It’s a modern atrocity. The Government and the banks are committing human rights violations against its people and people can see this. But they are so disillusioned to what’s going on that – I feel at least – community spaces like this are necessary to peacefully and appropriately raise awareness in the mainstream.

How long are you prepared to stay here?

Danny: Until ends meet. We will be arguing the Magna Carta in court. We are prepared for a court battle.

Do you fear the interference of police and/or any form of private security firm?

Danny: We have made preparations for worst-case scenarios. I believe in an attempt not to judge people before I’ve met them or spoken to them and I believe Merseyside Police will act within the law. In the event that they don’t, we are prepared to take appropriate measures to live stream, to prosecute and – if it comes to it – we will call in Manchester Police [N.B. Manchester is Liverpool’s neighboring city].

Is this your first event of this kind?

Jack: No, this is not my first event, but it’s the first that I have been this heavily involved in.

We’ve heard from Dan about the motives… but is there anything else you are looking to gain or achieve from this?

Jack: We’re looking to raise awareness of the very serious issue of homelessness in this country. Even five or six homeless people is a serious issue because there is very little to stop people from ‘normal society’ to fall through the gaps. There can be just one or two things you rely on that could collapse and before you know it you’re on the streets. People view the homeless as if they’re some separate breed of people – a separate race or something, not even human – and that’s wrong. This could happen to anyone if they lost their job. We have legally occupied this building and we can let homeless people stay for free and really there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do that. There’s no reason why anybody should be sleeping on the streets in a – allegedly – first world country.

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