Bristol's GRC: Bailiffs in Balaclavas
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Fri Jan 5 13:03:52 GMT 2018
BAILIFFS IN BALACLAVAS
CHAPTER 7 NEWS ISSUE 22 WINTER 2018
Paramilitary eviction squads, High Court
injunctions, deportations, torched dwellings -
these are the legacy of the 2012 anti-squatting
laws, writes TONY GOSLING, reporting from Bristol.
Before dawn on 23 November 2016 around 25 men
dressed in black with masked faces, turned up
equipped with sledgehammers, crowbars and dogs at
a squat in a commercial building in Barton Hill,
Bristol. They broke in through a window and two
doors and once inside ordered the six petrified
Spanish residents to "get on the floor".
Eventually, the squatters were ordered to leave
the premises with their hands up in the air. When
the police turned up in response to the
squatters' 999 call they spoke to the bailiffs only, before driving off.
This was the first strike by the firm Graham Rose
Consultants (GRC) who see themselves as
"entrepreneurs" opening up a new market in
illegal evictions. They claim to help landowners
use so called "Common Law" to evict gypsies and
travellers trespassing on open land, and will
remove squatters "without the need to go through a lengthy court process."
Since then GRC have carried out several other
evictions by force and without court orders. On
14 February 2017, about ten of their bailiffs
arrived with power cutters at 6am at the empty
Greencore warehouse in Bristol's St Philip's
district occupied by two squatters. On 18 May,
eight bailiffs broke into the abandoned Bristol
Tile Factory warehouse in Fishponds Road to evict
half a dozen squatters from a retail unit where
local groups have campaigned against a planned McDonalds.
GRC's business model is to break in to lawfully
occupied buildings before the police arrive,
hoping that residents will be intimidated out,
vigilante style. This is illegal so the raids are
organised with military precision since they have
to commit the criminal damage and gain entry to
the property under cover of darkness and before
police arrive. The fact that such a confrontation
will, on occasions, turn violent seems to be part
of the adrenalin draw for those they employ, who
are always dressed in black and wear balaclavas -
in the Greencore operation, one wore a skull
mask. In the Tile Factory attack, they carried CS
spray canisters, side batons and body armour
along with the usual sledgehammers.
Squatters have described the GRC masked bailiffs
as behaving like riot-trained police officers,
down to the barked orders and mannerisms. Many of
them have Welsh accents and one has a Welsh red
dragon flag sewn onto his black jacket. Squat-
ters have not forgotten that it was mostly Welsh
police who were brought over to Bristol to kick
off Stokes Croft's so-called "Tesco riots" in April 2011.
The clauses criminalising squatting in
residential properties and removing legal aid for
the homeless in the 2102 Legal Aid, Sentencing
and Punishment of Offenders Act are ideal for
unscrupulous bailiffs like GRC. This law tends to
force squatters into industrial estates away from
eyewitnesses, and encourage landlords and
bailiffs to carry out criminal evictions in the
knowledge that without legal aid, squatters are
less likely be able to challenge them through the
courts. News of these violent evictions has
spread around the Bristol homeless community,
discouraging people from squatting commercial properties.
As squatting buildings becomes more difficult,
homeless people are resorting to living in tents.
There are several encampments tucked away in
parks and scraps of wood- land within a mile of
Bristol's city centre. Until now the bailiffs
have left them alone, but the tent dwellers face other hazards.
First of these is Bristol Council, which in 2016,
under the Labour mayor Marvin Rees, engaged
personnel to wait until tent dwellers left their
site empty in order to confiscate their tents.
Since this was theft, the council was forced to
abandon this policy. Instead it applied for an
injunction against a "Tent City" of ten residents
in Peel Street Park in the Easton area of
Bristol, forbidding them to camp on any
council-owned parks and derelict spaces. Bristol
Housing Action Movement (BHAM) initiated a
fundraising campaign and engaged Derek McConnell
from South West Law, who managed to get the ban
reduced to just that park for only six months. Tent City moved to another site.
Another hazard is the charity St Mungo's whose
outreach team roam the streets engaging and
identifying the city's rough sleepers, ostensibly
with a view to getting them one of the rare
available beds in a hostel. Identity checks by
these "helpers of the homeless" are being handed
on to the Home Office eager to deport any migrant
with no visible means of support. In May two
Polish men living at Tent City were jailed for
several months in the former Navy prison at
Portland, and one was sent back to Poland. St
Mungo's, some readers may recall, was a partner
in Ealing Council's award-winning "beds in sheds"
enforcement campaign, which was specifically
designed to "tackle illegal immigrants and
illegal employment practices." (See The Land 19 p 59).
Then one evening in September 2017 the occupants
of Tent City left the site to visit a soup
kitchen. They returned to find that arsonists had
torched many of their tents with all their
belongings inside. BHAM again came to the rescue:
it found alternative squatted accommodation and
organised an appeal for money to replace the
burnt possessions. One of the activists told the
Bristol Post: "With winter a few months away it
is very important that we provide the duty of
care that Bristol City Council will not".
Thanks to Isabel Burnett - who helped research
GRC and submitted an article to The Bristol Cable
in early summer 2017, which wasn't published.
From South America, where payment must be made
with subtlety, the Bormann organization has made
a substantial contribution. It has drawn many of
the brightest Jewish businessmen into a
participatory role in the development of many of
its corporations, and many of these Jews share
their prosperity most generously with Israel. If
their proposals are sound, they are even provided
with a specially dispensed venture capital fund.
I spoke with one Jewish businessmen in Hartford,
Connecticut. He had arrived there quite unknown
several years before our conversation, but with
Bormann money as his leverage. Today he is more
than a millionaire, a quiet leader in the
community with a certain share of his profits
earmarked as always for his venture capital
benefactors. This has taken place in many other
instances across America and demonstrates how
Bormanns people operate in the contemporary
commercial world, in contrast to the fanciful
nonsense with which Nazis are described in so much literature.
So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish
participation in Bormann companies that when
Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv
to stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the
Jewish and German communities of Buenos Aires.
Jewish leaders informed the Israeli authorities
in no uncertain terms that this must never happen
again because a repetition would permanently
rupture relations with the Germans of Latin
America, as well as with the Bormann
organization, and cut off the flow of Jewish
money to Israel. It never happened again, and the
pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of
these Jewish leaders. He is residing in an
Argentinian safe haven, protected by the most
efficient German infrastructure in history as
well as by all those whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
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