Common Ground Squatted Community Garden Evicted - For Now...
Below is an account of the eviction of Common Ground Community Garden. Please e-mail further enquiries to the following e-mail address: katesgrovegraden(AT)yahoo.co.uk
At about 9am on 18th October 2007 council officials, bailliffs, police and PCSO's arrived, and council officials broke down the door to number 6 Silver Street (ex-Womens Information Centre). Police and officials entered the property and evicted the two people living there. They also broke a hole in the garden fence.
Around this time a couple of local residents, who have worked and relaxed in the community garden over the past 10 months, arrived on the scene, asking questions and attempting to take photographs of the event. After the eviction teams plans to "board-up" the garden were overheard, two more local people who have worked in Common Ground arrived.
Three people entered the garden and sat at a table, before council officials entered and told them to leave. An argument followed as the residents demanded that the community should be asked what it wanted to happen to the site, rather than a development being imposed without consultation, while council officials simply replied "its private property" - as if this is more important than social and environmental concerns or local democracy. When told "This isn't right and you know it!", officials replied "You may have a moral argument, but by the law this is right". Surely there is something wrong with law when it conflicts with what is morally right or with local democracy?
One council official began to get aggressive and pulled one person's seat from underneath them, throwing it across the garden. He then started shoving the resident and squaring up to him, while the resident stood his ground and asked the official his name. Eventually, two residents had to leave the garden for personal reasons, while one remained. Officials asked him to leave again, before asking the police, who had left, to return.
The Police once again asked the resident to leave, to avoid "embarrassment", only to be told "I'm not embarrassed to defend this garden". Eventually, following discussions between the council and the police, a reluctant council official was told to use reasonable force to evict the person. The protester was physically lifted and dragged out of the garden, before builders fitted boards over the garden gate and over the hole in the fence.
This is definitely not the end, and Common Ground Collective will discuss various options over the weekend.
The Council have stated in press releases and in the recent full council meeting that offers of alternative land had been rejected 'out of hand' by the gardeners. This is a misleading statement. Common Ground gave careful consideration to the offers and, as a group, agreed to continue defend the garden where it is, and push for a local democratic process where the community would decide what happens to the site long term.
However, individuals involved in Common Ground have begun engaging in discussion with local councillors and the Katesgrove Residents Association to discuss the viability of creating other community gardens on the land offered by the council. It should be pointed out however, that both alternatives are not without immediate problems as one is very small and slopes down to the river making it potentially dangerous, and the other is not wholly owned by the council. The identity of the part owner in the latter case is seemingly unknown. But all options will be considered and pursued as far as they can go.
Thanks for all support we have recieved over the last year, we'll be back!