He says the evictions are part of a “social cleansing” of London.
Russell Brand at Sweets Way. Image via the Sweets Way Resists Facebook page.
Russell Brand, celebrity prosthelytizer and YouTube revolutionary, helped stage a “sleepover” protest Tuesday night in support of residents who were evicted from their south London homes to make way for a new housing developement. Residents of the embattled property stationed themselves for an all-night occupation of one of the houses—kids frolicked in the playroom, food and ice cream trucks kept protesters well fed, and adults and children alike indulged themselves in rounds of karaoke. The protest/party was part of a campaign, called Sweets Way Resists, to save the homes of 60 residents who are currently still on the property.
“At a time when residents are being told there are no truly affordable homes left in Barnet, Annington should not be allowed to bulldoze our homes to make way for luxury flats!” writes Brand on his website.
Brand calls the eviction of Sweets Way residents a “social cleansing.” Sweets was previously owned by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense but is now in the hands of a private housing developer called Annington Homes, which plans to flatten the neighborhood and build new mixed-income housing. The city council approved designs for 288 new houses, which will displace the 160 homes currently on the property. Only 59 of the new homes will be afforded to low-income residents.
A short, heartbreaking documentary on the Sweets Way evictions reveals the real, substantive impact the evictions have had on the children who used to live in these homes. Not only have they been torn away from their houses, they’ve also been ripped apart from their community. Some of the families have been placed in temporary housing far away from Sweets Way, and others are staying with family. The kids have had to travel long distances to stay at their old school, or move schools completely. Their lives are completely destabilized.
“I can’t go to school because it’s too far away from where I’m staying at the moment, so we’re looking for a house that’s close to where we need to go,” said one of the kids.
The Sweets Way eviction brings the cruel nature of London’s housing crisis into stark relief. More than 1.5 million buildings in the U.K. remain completely unoccupied, and yet more than 112,000 people reported themselves as homeless during the 2013-2014 period. Back in December, squatting activists who intended to occupy an old bank building and serve Christmas dinner to the homeless were kicked out, and forced to dish out meals on the sidewalk.