Squatting as a Protest Tactic
Tips for Squatting as a Political Act
1) BRING CAMCORDERS, TAPE RECORDERS, CAMERAS, NOTEPADS AND PRESS PASSES
This will help deter police harassment and, if it occurs, provide you with a record of it. It will also help you to document and celebrate any victories in gaining your aims.
If you are journalist, bring your press pass. It can help you get access to sites and information that authorities are trying to keep from the public eye. It's amazing how humanely officials can act when they know that others are watching.
2) STAY IN CONSTANT TOUCH WITH SQUATTERS WORLDWIDE
This cross-fertilizes strategies and helps you decide what may work or not locally. It also builds morale, especially when authorities are trying to discredit you and threatening arrests to scare off supporters.
Nowadays, the Internet is an excellent link to other squatters in a world where over a billion people are houseless--even in wealthy nations.
Homes Not Jails (Boston chapter) homepage is a good place to start, at: http://www.homesnotjails.org
3) GIVE EVERY PARTICIPANT AN "EVICTION ALERT PHONETREE"
The list should include contact phone numbers for the news desks of alternative and mainstream media local TV, newspapers and radio, plus wire services such as United Press and Reuters. Don't forget college papers and radio stations.
Also include contact numbers for supporters to mobilize quickly if arrests occur. Perhaps you can find progressive members of City Council, clergy or other "notables" to promise to be arrested if you are "evicted" from the site. But make sure they do not take over and co-opt your aims. (For more on this, see point 5.)
4) CREATE 'LEGAL SUPPORT" ROLES FOR THOSE WHO CHOOSE NOT TO BE ARRESTED
Never "guilt-trip" those who may not want to do civil disobedience. Make sure they are in a spot where they will not be arrested. Help them choose legal support tasks. These include meetings, transport, materials, cash, outreach, publicity and legal help--to name but a few.
5) MAKE YOUR SPOKESPEOPLE THOSE MOST AFFECTED--HOMELESS PEOPLE
I think it's a form of "domestic colonialism" when non-poor people speak for the poor, even when "progressives" do it. When actions show signs of success, politicians and services providers often try to take control, take credit and take any resources you win (such as housing and cash).
Homeless peoples' aims get lost in such shuffles--as well as the materials to survive and thrive that homeless people deserve. Choose your allies carefully, and let homeless people speak for ourselves.
6) MAKE DEMANDS THAT LINK THE KEY ISSUES--CIVIL RIGHTS, HOMES FOR ALL, WAGE-RENT SLAVERY
Be realistic. Demand the impossible. What is "politically feasible" today is far short of what people need and deserve. Accept no substitutes. You may get what you ask for--so ask for everything.
7) WIDELY PUBLICIZE AND ENFORCE A BAN ON ALL ALCOHOL AND DRUGS ON SITE
People who are high or agitated at your actions will undercut your credibility with the public who can help win your demands. If you see someone with drugs or alcohol, ask them to take it off the site--first time, every time. Fighting drunks will discredit your actions quickly.
8) GET ADVICE AND SUPPORT FROM CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS
One group that comes to mind is National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (which works closely with National Coalition for the Homeless). The Law Center recently published a report on police harassment of homeless people, titled "Mean Sweeps". If you use the Internet, you can link to the Law Center (and other useful information on homelessness) via the National Coalition for the Homeless homepage at:
The National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are groups worth working with, especially if people are arrested.
9) HAVE SQUATTING SUPPLIES ON SITE AND NEARBY
If you manage to hold a building, authorities may try to starve you out. So have water, blankets, food, soap and buckets for human waste inside--before you publicly announce your site. Also have cell phones inside, so that you can have contact with supporters outside. Don't forget musical instruments to celebrate your struggle -- and to accompany you as you sing "We Shall Not Be Moved".
"Squat for Affordable Housing" by Tom Boland]
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