London Squatters Campaign 1968

Inspired by the success of the Vigilante and King Hill movements the London Squatters Campaign was set up in November 1968 with the following aims:

  • To take over disused property to re-house families living in inhuman conditions in hostels and slums
  • To spread the influence of direct action
  • To instigate an attack on the housing authorities
  • To radicalise the housing field

Squatting was described as 'living demonstration' because it was both symbolic direct action and a do-it-yourself solution to homelessness. The campaigners understood that publicity was necessary in order to pressurise local government and to protect the squatters from immediate eviction or arrest. They first staged 'token squats'; trial runs which would both test the method and generate publicity. The London Squatters Campaign organised well, made lists of empty properties and researched the legal position of squatting and squatters. It was particularly important that they found ways to avoid breaking the law. Squatting meant voluntarily leaving the re-housing system and families already putting their places at temporary hostels and on housing lists at risk did not want to further endanger their chances for re-housing by breaking the law.

After several successful 'token squats' by campaigners a real occupation by homeless families was staged in abandoned houses in Redbridge. In February 1968 200 people marched to the properties. Their route toured other empty houses in the area, two of which were spontaneously taken over in the course of the demonstration. Television and newspaper publicity for this demonstration was widespread. The LSC took meter readings and notified the electricity and water boards about their occupation before switching these services on so they could not be charged with theft.

Over several months Redbridge Council attempted to remove the squatters in the following ways:

  • Attempted to serve injunctions ordering the squatters to cease trespassing. These were evaded.
  • Obtained possession orders for the squatted houses. Squatters swapped houses so that the people named on the possession orders were not resident in the houses to which they applied (this tactic was ruled ineffective in 1975 but was a useful tactic for many years).
  • Destroyed other empty houses to deter further squats.
  • Forcibly evicted squatters without court order and destroyed the houses they'd occupied to prevent their return.

The LSC alerted the national press when bailiffs arrived and the resulting bad publicity embarrassed the council into negotiation with the squatters.