Domestic violence campaigners have been “violently” evicted from Cheltenham Road Library.
The Sisters Uncut activists had been occupying the site – set to be developed into upmarket flats – to protest a lack of housing for domestic violence survivors, and run community and social justice workshops. Bailiffs broke down the door at approximately 5.30am today, following a court hearing yesterday. Campaigners say they gathered on the roof to protect themselves, eventually leaving to ensure nobody got hurt. Two protestors who returned to the roof say they were “viciously” lifted off by bailiffs, with one of them sustaining cuts and bruises to the leg.
“[They] dragged us off the roof really violently, almost pulled my arms out my sockets,” said campaigner Alex*. It was just really abusive.”
Nigel, part of a group who arrived at 7am to support the activists, saw this happen. “One [bailiff] in particular being pretty violent to them. … It was scary you know, they could have fallen off the roof, anything could have happened.”
The campaigners say bailiffs informed them that a trained climbing team would be arriving to safely remove them from the roof. However they say they were then “snuck up on” by the bailiffs themselves, and set upon while dangerously close to the edge. Alex* sustained bruising on the leg during this forcible removal. A police liaison officer who accompanied the bailiffs later informed them that they could file a criminal report, while insisting he himself had not seen any assault.
Local Green Party councillor Cleo Lake, who was at the scene, said: “I support direct action … I think it’s really important that they’ve highlighted the issues.”
“I really wish that the council had more capacity to have its own developing arm, rather than allow developers to get all the profits,” she reflected, saying “we need to rethink some things”.
Speaking of the forcible eviction, she said, “It’s that clash again, isn’t, it between state and people trying to make change. There will always be people in the way of that – they’ll protect corporations and property at all costs it seems.”
Building on the site began immediately after the eviction, but Sisters Uncut say they are determined to continue campaigning on the issue of domestic violence housing, and will find other community spaces to continue positive and inclusive community workshops.
“Men dragged women off the roof, really ironic, because the protest is about domestic violence and abusing women,” added campaigner Molly*.
Sisters Uncut is a national feminist movement campaigning on domestic violence issues through direct action.
*The person did not wish to reveal their real name