Well things have moved on with the homeless and the spikes. Meaning some autonomous activists went to Regent Street late on evening on the Wednesday night and poured concrete over the spikes. Not a very professional job, but I would say for a first attempt they showed given some time their skills would be acceptable on any building site. They were savvy enough to take some trusted press peeps with them this being Vice and getting it all recorded and published to a world wide audience.
Within hours Tesco’s removed the spikes. The removal wasn’t just down to one act of “vandalism” as I have heard some cry. The concrete pour was just an act of fast forwarding the demands of the outcry seen in the last few days. This act in itself has saved the public purse a lot of money all round if the traditional route had been taken, letter writing, meetings, demonstrations, e-petitions, PR meetings, complaints against planning, more meetings, complaints to the corporations (that don’t really give a shit about your views and opinions how ever relevant and correct they are. They just want your money) Lawyers fees, solicitors letters etc. Then there is the press and the feeding frenzie that this has caused and the people managing to use the right wing media in delivering the message that this was immoral behaviour towards the homeless. For once it was the people running the show.
Living in a system that is so tied up in bureaucracy that this seemed the only option of opposition for an obscene act of taking ownership of space in this way was direct action in these David and Goliath times. The people should be grateful for activists willing to break the law for the moral ground and the thousands of comments I have read on the cementing of the spikes has been overwhelmingly in favour of the action. So it will be interesting to see if the authorities/corporations go for prosecutions here. Will they be willing to stand up in court and justify their immoral actions or will it be better PR to keep quiet, remove the spikes, never employ the bright spark that came up with that idea again. Will they just go away and lick their wounds and put damage limitations strategies into place.
But this whole situation has created lots of questions for me. So was this about deterring people from sleeping and sitting down or is this about the ownership of Space? The conflict of public space and private space is becoming a battle in it’s own right and this has been repeatedly highlighted by the right to protest. Increasingly the public spaces have been sold off to large corporations and you now have to abide by these companies rules and regulations whilst on these spaces. Be it a street in Canary Wharf or a road in City of London for example. For example if I want to protest about Shell, their offices are on private land in London, they can get an injunction banning me from outside the shell building for life even if their company moves from the building I would still be banned from that piece of land. Surely that isn’t right?
So back to the spikes, why spikes? Why didn’t they put some flower pots there or some works or art ? Things that aesthetically please people would have had less of an impact. I am sure that if you lived in the tower block in Southwark were some of the spikes have appeared and a beautiful display of flowers were used to cover the area, would you have even thought about the homeless? or just thought that’s pretty. So Why Spikes? Why use something so offensive and aggressive? It could be the fact that this is a one off payment rather than a flower pot that may need a contract to maintain it or artwork that may get stolen. I’m not sure but I really think that this type of planning in our urban spaces has to be questioned. Not just the spikes, but the walls, the razor wire, the gates, the private security and the freedom of movement.
I’m really not sure about the wider implications here and have to think about this. It is definitely not as clear cut as first seems. But for now this has been seen as a victory of the people and rightly so but is it a win for the homeless? The spikes have become a symbol of the homeless a bit like a logo. So what now the spikes are gone the public outrage has been quelled and the spikes have been removed. Will things be any different for the homeless? Now we can go back to not thinking about the homeless .
Well done to those activists willing to risk their liberty ! Lets hope this isn’t in vain.