London: Queer Social Centre to open despite ‘unlawful police harassment’
A squatter-run “queer social centre” is to open in Brixton today, in protest at the commercialisation of LGBTQI events.
House of Brag – which describes itself as “a collective of queers and allies” and a “squatted, volunteer-run, non-commercial project” – aims to “take Pride back to its militant, intersectional roots”, and will be running the London Queer Social Centre for two weeks.
It seeks to provide “a non-commercial, non alcohol-orientated space” that will allow “queer people to meet up and organise around issues that specifically affect queer people”.
The social centre was due to open at 2pm today, but this was delayed after the group was “subjected to several hours of ridiculous overreaction and unlawful harassment by the police”, according to posts from the group on Facebook and Twitter.
House of Brag has since announced that the centre will be open in time for a planned squatting workshop at 7pm tonight.
HoB OPENING TONIGHT!! 7pm Squatters Practical/Legal Workshop Dinner/Films. Despite cop harassment & sabotage we will go ahead as planned.
— House Of Brag (@HouseOfBrag) July 2, 2014
A blog post this afternoon added: “Tonight’s programme is pretty relevant as the new space has been under constant police surveillance and our comrades have been subject to intimidation and this morning we had one of our crew arrested. “The show of solidarity from fellow squatters, queer & trans peeps, local activists and the community of Brixton has been incredible. “We still need ongoing support as our electricity and water have been cut off and the cops are trying their best to make everything much harder since they can’t find any legit legal reason to shut us down.”
House of Brag has taken over premises formerly part of Joy, a fashion shop in Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, which closed down in January. Last year’s centre ran from an abandoned pub in Kennington called The Duchy Arms.
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Notices displayed when the group first took over the site defended the legality of the squat, on the grounds that the building was non-residential until their entrance. They warned that they were willing to prosecute anyone who attempted to enter using violence or without the permission of the group.
Proposed discussions over the fortnight will cover the limits of sex-positivity, queer sci-fi appreciation, trans and queer healthcare access, and the past and future of queer activism.
The centre is planning serve dinner from Weds-Fri on both weeks, and will have “dry days” on Thursdays and Fridays to provide alcohol-free safe spaces.
Squatting on a non-residential property without permission is not usually a crime, but if squatters commit other crimes when entering or staying in a property, the police can take action against them.