Supporting Spaces: Eviction Attempt at Grangegorman
On Monday the 23rd of March between 6 and 7 AM a team of men broke into a home in Stoneybatter and erected fences, not only blocking the residents from entering the space they live in, but also barricading some people inside with no access water and amenities. Consider this and let it sink in. None of us would be happy about this were it to take place in our home so why would we feel any different about it here?
It may change some people’s minds if I was to say that the people who broke into the property were a security team and those who live on the property were in fact squatters. The sad truth is that because the property, which consists of three houses, three warehouses and a courtyard, has been squatted for almost two years the view of the outside world may be slightly askew, presuming that these 30 people are somehow lesser members of society; freeloaders, jobless hippies and young people with no respect for the law. A closer look reveals that this is not the case.
I have been lucky enough to spend time in this community and have seen that this space is in fact an active community and a social hub that has been instrumental in bring people together, mobilising people politically, and supporting and encouraging creative endeavors by actively taking unused, space and turning it into an arena of positive social action. The word ‘squatter’ easily falls prey to all kinds of assumptions, but the reality is that the people who have squatted the space at Grangegorman have taken a huge wasted area that would have been left otherwise completely empty and unused and turn it into something of value to the community. In the last year it has played host to a number of events, classes and gatherings. Inside, it includes a full cinema, a circus training area and a community garden. It has run events like the monthly poetry and music show Words in the Warehouse that has brought artists and audiences together, encouraging creativity and community, as well as playing host to the 2014 International Squatters Convergence which brought 150 people together from all across Europe and the USA to attend workshops and exchange ideas on how to use abandoned spaces in cities across the world.
This is the main reason that squatting exists – not so that people can live for free, but to prove that people can live in buildings that we would otherwise be led to believe were uninhabitable and of no use. Nothing contributes to the dereliction of a building more than leaving it empty. Those who live at the Grangegorman address are actively caring for the land and the houses, fixing what is broken and making use of what would otherwise be deteriorating.
There are between 2-3000 homeless people in Dublin on any given night. At a time where Ireland, and in particular Dublin, is in the middle of a housing crisis, where news of families being turned out on the streets and the number of children being made homeless is rising, people like the occupants of Gragegormon show just how much space is wasted because owners would rather see it empty than put to positive social use – and just how much could be done with it if communities were allowed to make use of buildings and land that are in the centre of their community.
One of the problems with this raid is how it has been carried out. Of course, when someone lives in a squatted community there is an understanding that at some point there will be a claim made on the property and that they will be requested to vacate the space. This is usually done via a court order or some sort of legal injunction. The people who live in spaces like this are aware of this legal system and know the ins and outs of property law. The main issue with what is happening at Grangegorman is not so much that an eviction attempt has been made, but rather the way that security and police have gone about it.
The buildings, which are in receivership and therefore technically owned by no single person (NAMA hold the deeds), were entered without any earlier warning. No warrants were produced and as yet there is no legal documentation that demands the eviction. Unlike much of the rest of Europe where there are much clearer laws, squatters rights are a complex issue in Ireland because of the fact they are almost non-existent. However, to attempt to forcibly remove squatters from their homes without any kind of court order is of extremely questionable legality. The fact that the security team who were involved in this eviction attempt have no clear legal standing, but are being supported by the police, is troubling because this means that the police are not defending the law, but rather working to defend people who are actively ignoring it.
During the raid today officers admitted to not knowing about property law and claimed that they were ‘only doing their job’, which seems unusual, as their job is to uphold the law, not protect those who break it. Unfortunately, at this point, the Irish people have become all too familiar with this kind of story: those who create and enforce the law of the land are also above it. Ireland has had its fair share of trouble when it comes to disregard for the law in recent years. Corrupt politicians, bankers and the rich have been continually let off the hook because of their social standing. There’s no question that we are all feeling the effect of a warped sense of justice.
Regardless of people’s personal opinions are on the use of these kinds of spaces, everyone should be outraged by the active disregard of the law by those who are employed to uphold, especially in instances like this where citizens who strive to better their communities by maintaining these properties and encouraging communication and creativity are aggressively intimidated, illegally imprisoned, threatened in their home with pepper spray and batons, physically brutalised and invaded by those who supposedly serve and protect our society.
A community is not merely a bricks and mortar, but those who create it, those who live in it – however, if we are to support the concept of community we must also fight for spaces like Grangegorman so that those people who nurture it are able to continue to bring people together and create positive change. We have a responsibility as a society to support and give back to those who have done nothing but give to us.
Please, show your support by sharing all you can about what is happening at Grangegorman. Follow the progress of the Grangegorman Eviction Attempt here at their facebook page:
Words and photos: Andy Apples
We have visited and written about Grangegorman before in this post on Words in the Warehouse, check it out if you want to see how nurturing this creative environment really is.