There have been two main types of movement to occupy empty buildings or land: action by the homeless to find somewhere to live, and counter-cultural initiatives to create new social spaces, forms of social activity and a model of society in miniature within modern cities. In the former category is the 2013 occupation of land in Cato Crest, Durban, by about 1,000 people, who had been illegally evicted by their municipality . They named their new settlement Marikana. In the latter category are the Kabouters (successors to the Dutch Provos) in the 1970s, and the independent community of Christiane founded on an old military base in Denmark in 1971 and continuing until today, though after state pressure in the 2000s there have been changes in its status. But this distinction is not absolute – some movements aim both to provide social housing and to offer a new model of society.
A third type of action was launched by the Occupy London campaign in 2011, involving widespread squatting in empty commercial property, partly to underline their anti-capitalist message (see A.8.)
Governments, especially right wing ones, have periodically evicted squatters and tried to make it more difficult. Parisian police evicted up to 1,000 West African immigrants living in a disused university residential block in August 2006 – a move criticized as a publicity stunt for presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy (Guardian, 18 Aug 2006, p.25). The British Coalition government made squatting in residential buildings illegal in 2012 – members of the Squatters’ Housing Action Group had earlier climbed onto the roof of the Justice Secretary’s London home in protest against a criminalization of a solution to homelessness.
You are here
A.2.c. Homeless Campaigns and Occupations
Covers the London Squatters Campaign 1968-71, but notes background of the mass movement by homeless people in Britain at the end of the Second World War to occupy military bases, and later luxury flats, in 1945-46.
Discusses the success of squatter movements by the homeless, addresses issues such as ‘direct action and the law’ and ‘tactics and mobilization’ and includes case studies of squatter settlements and rent strikes.
Analysis of how organization, tactics, political context and ‘framing’ of the issue affect outcomes, based on 15 campaigns in 8 US cities.
Covers a significant movement in post-war Britain when many houses had been destroyed by bombing.
Examines squatting in empty properties in European cities over three decades, and argues squatting has promoted a mode of citizen participation, protest and self-management.
Author lived in squatter communities in Rio, Bombay, Nairobi (where squatting was linked to building new homes) and Istanbul.
Issue on ‘Squatters’ covering London campaign starting in 1968, including extract from Kropotkin on ‘The expropriation of dwellings’.
Case studies from most of Europe (excluding eastern Europe and Greece) covering direct action to create social housing and other community services over 30 year period.
Ward, a leading anarchist theorist and expert on housing, examines the post-1945 British squatters movement (pp. 13-27) and assesses the revival of squatting between 1968 and early 1970s.
A social history that goes up to end of 20th century, primarily discusses British examples, but has references to many other countries.
Written and produced by squatters, focusing primarily on history in Britain, but some reference to squatting round the world.