Monday, 9 January 2012

Occupy Lancaster: 4 arrested as Police raid Railton Hotel Squat




Police raided the derelict Railton Hotel near Lancaster Railway station this evening. We understand from a witness who does not wish to be named that the Railton Hotel, which has stood derelict for several years, was squatted on Saturday evening by Occupy Lancaster protesters, who are protesting against cuts to services and benefits affecting vulnerable people, and against tax avoidance by the wealthy.

The facebook community 'Occupy Lancaster' has throughout Sunday been discussing the progress of recovery work being undertaken by volunteers to make the building safely usable - and even making plans to realise the potential of the garden area.

However we understand that on Sunday afternoon police visited the property. They were there for some hours, discussing the situation with protesters outside the building whilst members of the occupation were entering and leaving it. At about 8pm between thirty to forty Police officers, many brought in specially from other areas, gathered outside the property with a number of vehicles. A group of police appear to have employed a form of battering ram to break apart the door of the Railton (see video above). They subsequently entered the building and made 4 arrests.

Lancaster Police have issued the following statement:

"Police were called to the Railton Hotel on Station Road in Lancaster at around 4pm this afternoon to reports of a break in. On arrival, officers found a group of protesters inside the building.  Officers have since entered the property and four arrests have been made.

"Two men aged 30, and 48 from Lancaster and a 48 year old man from Morecambe along with one women aged 28 from Lancaster have been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. They are currently in custody."

The video featured above, posted on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qob2sd7bK60,  shows police breaking down the door of the Railton Hotel and entering. In the background protesters can be heard to chant "Rich boys' boot boys" and a protester's voice can be heard reading out to the police the squatters' Legal Warning notice under s6 of the Criminal Law Act which gives squatters some conditional protection from illegal or violent entry.

Further photos of the raid can be viewed at
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/01/490914.html

An on-the-spot interview with witnesses describing the raid and the events and negotiations preceding it can be heard at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/media/2012/01//490915.mp3.

Following this event a number of people presented themselves at Lancaster Police Station to lodge a complaint against the police, arguing that the eviction was unlawful under section 6 of the Criminal Law Act. Around 20 people have remained to protest outside the police station. Lancaster Police have responded in a further comment that:

"We suspected that criminal offences had been committed, namely criminal damage to the property, and therefore arrests have been made."

The protesters are currently detained at Lancaster Police station pending questioning.

A further report has been published in the Guardian online site .

See Facebook pages:
'Occupy Lancaster!' and 'Occupy Lancaster - Practical Support'.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

From the looks of it the Police did more damage than the protestors.

Anonymous said...

It would have taken some hours to assemble such a large number of police and vehicles and equipment from across the region. It seems likely that the decision to raid in force was taken earlier in the day and prior to the negotiations referred to in the audio interview. Given the peaceful track record of the protesters and their history of cooperation and respect for the police at their previous camp, it is difficult to understand what that decision was based on.

One cannot help but wonder if somebody in the police hierarchy determined that the protesters should be taught a sharp lesson. A bit of scary mob-handed violence will generally do that.

Locking somebody in a cell for 24 hours can also be a very shocking and educational experience for people with no previous history of discord with the police.

There is some irony in the fact that people who have been campaigning against cuts to vital police services should have their case so undermined by such an unnecessarily expensive police operation.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would the police have wanted to evict them? The place was dangerous and a well known place where criminal types converged. Seems to me that occupiers would have not only made good use of the building but saved the police some hassle by making it safer. And as for the fact the owner has left it to rot for years and done nothing to maintain the outside - he would probably have been happy if the occupiers had stayed and made the gardens good. Can't help but think this was a major overreaction. I see the national Guardian jumped on the story and the BBC news sent a crew later. Don't think police have done themselves many favours here, especially as the occupiers had good intentions and would have made an attempt to create a community resource out of nothing but goodwill, hardwork, imagination and public engagement. Shame.

Anonymous said...

Cameron wants us to create the Big Society through voluntary work. He wants us to replace community centres etc being closed because of the cuts. Only, this is proof if any is needed, that people had better not disrupt the peaceful repose of absentee landlords in the process or try to raise awareness of economic injustices.