Social justice activists determined to feed the homeless have faced eviction for the second time following their attempts to open a soup kitchen in Westminster, in the heart of London. They were forcibly ousted by police Tuesday night.
Following their eviction from a listed Victorian building near Trafalgar Square they had been occupying in the run-up to Christmas, the group decided to set up a soup kitchen outside.
Since December 25, they had been distributing food, coffee and tea outside the vacant offices to people sleeping rough on the streets of London.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the group, who call themselves the “Love Activists,” said that the situation facing the homeless in central London has hit crisis point. Services to help the homeless in the area are woefully inadequate, they argued, with all dedicated centers due to remain closed until January 3.
“[The] Love Activists are one of the only groups protecting the homeless now,” the group warned, adding it would not “be moved on by the council.”
But on Tuesday night, police officers and council staff forcibly ousted the activists from the area and forced them to dismantle their soup kitchen.
It is thought the authorities wanted to clear the street in preparation for New Year’s Eve festivities.
A member of the Love Activists described the standoff, which culminated in eventual eviction, as “class warfare.”
Prior to Christmas, the group occupied the building near Trafalgar Square with the intention of offering a free and nutritious festive meal to homeless Londoners on Christmas Day.
They made their way into the five-story building on the morning of December 20, having discovered a fire escape door that was open. Following their entry, the activists claimed on their Facebook page the building had been “taken by the people.”
The campaigners made the decision to occupy the premises and offer food to Londoners who have fallen on hard times in protest at rising levels of inequality in Britain, and an ever-growing housing crisis.
The protesters faced eviction from the building, however, on the morning of December 24. Nevertheless, a high court judge amended the eviction injunction that evening to allow the group to regain access to prepare a festive meal for local homeless people on December 25.
The Love Activists subsequently provided a simple lunch to homeless people who made their way to the office block on Christmas Day.
The building’s recent history resonates deeply with the focus of the group’s protest. It had previously been rented by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a scandal-ridden bank which required an astronomical bailout at UK taxpayers’ expense.
One of the Love Activists, 22-year-old Danny Freeman, told The Guardian that the fact the building was previously leased by RBS made the group’s core message of “homes not banks” more profound.
In the aftermath of a 2008 banking crisis, which brought Britain’s economy to its knees, RBS was nationalized and bailed out by British taxpayers. It is currently 79 percent owned by the state.
Years later, a lawsuit against RBS remains ongoing. Former executives at the bank stand accused of deceiving its shareholders. In a climate of grueling austerity, characterized by relentless cuts to social services, the RBS bailout cost UK taxpayers £45 billion.
Earlier this month, it emerged that glaring failures by local authorities to protect vulnerable children and teenagers in Britain have reduced them to sleeping rough on the streets, on night buses, in police stations and in drug dens. Many are thought to be at high risk of abuse.
According to a leading homelessness charity in Britain, 2,414 people across the nation are estimated to be sleeping rough each night. This marks a 37 percent increase since 2010, when the current Conservative-led government came to power.
Despite Tuesday night’s eviction, the Love Activists are determined to continue providing food and clothing to homeless people in central London. The group reportedly re-erected their soup kitchen in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday morning in front of the National Portrait Gallery.
Below is an interview the Authentic Enlightenment team did with activist Emily Lance on homelessness in America and beyond, and what you can do to help.