Russell Brand leads ‘sleepover protest’, activists reoccupy vacant properties

Russell Brand. (Reuters / Stefan Wermuth)
Self-styled revolutionary and comedian Russell Brand led a “sleepover protest” in a “critical” North London estate this week, where housing activists reoccupied their old homes.

Annington Property Ltd, the owners of Sweets Way in Barnet, North London, recently evicted tenants to make way for a new housing development.

Large crowds gathered on the estate on Tuesday to show solidarity with former tenants and those on the verge of homelessness.

Housing activists, who brought sleeping bags and tents with them, chanted “we want our homes back.”

They removed metal grilles from two recently cleared homes and urged evictees to “move back in.”

Taking to Twitter, Brand accused Annington and the Barnet Council of “putting profit before people.”

With a lack of affordable homes left in Barnet, “Annington should not be allowed to bulldoze our homes to make luxury flats,” Brand said on his website.

He told the Guardian the housing crisis is a “confection, a creation and unnecessary,” as “there are 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK.”

Addressing protesters, he said: “We’ve got an opportunity for housing, and work, and to defend people who are vulnerable to stop the break-up of community assets like health, and to stop the break-up of jobs.

Sweets Way evictee Dilem Kurt was forced to leave the estate and move into emergency accommodation with her parents and her 10-year-old brother in February.

She told Times Series News her family will have to relocate again on April 1.

We are going to be made homeless again,” she told the paper. “Everyone is really stressed, it’s like a nightmare.”

Eager to claim justice for her family, Kurt said her little brother “should be revising for his SATs (exams). Instead he’s here at a protest.”

Speaking to RT, Liam Barrington-Bush of Sweets Way Resists said: “It has been amazing to see how people of Sweets Way have come together.

“Russell’s support has been great, but he would be the first to say it is the strength of residents and ex-residents that has made this possible.”

“There are now six formerly empty homes occupied on the estate. This is the first stage of repopulation.”

Bush says they will make it “impossible” for the council to demolish their community.

Despite the council’s approval of regeneration plans, Annington will fail to provide sufficient affordable homes for residents in the area.

Rejane Barbosa, a Sweets Way resident, told RT she’s “disappointed by the lack of response” from Annington and the council “despite attempts to call and deliver letters to them.”

A spokesman for Annington Property Ltd said: “It is regrettable when homes need to be demolished, but Annington’s decisions to redevelop the estate will see an increase in the number of homes by more than 100 percent from 142 to 288.”

The inclusion of 20 percent affordable homes will see a minimum of 59 created, where there were none before, according to the spokesman.

He says they have “commenced court proceedings to obtain a possession order so it can evict the squatters and take back possession of the property.”