A group of UK activists have been occupying an empty Bank of England building in Liverpool since April to stage a protest and help provide shelter for the homeless.
After being served with eviction notices on Tuesday, bailiffs have set up fences around the building where the anti-austerity ‘Love Activists’ are staging the occupation.
The activists say they are under siege by police and claim they are being refused delivery of food and water.
Press TV report: Merseyside police, which cover the area of Liverpool, have denied this and claimed that protesters had in fact rejected their offer of bottled water. They added they have no intention of forcing out the protesters and have given them the option to voluntarily leave without facing repercussions.
Juliette Edgar, an occupier who spoke to the media from inside the building, said the group will not be leaving anytime soon. “We have barricaded all the doors and entrances,” she said. “This is a former Bank of England building, it’s very secure. There are vaults in here.”
The occupiers had entered the building in April with the intention of transforming the derelict building into a space for homeless people and had received a court order demanding their exit. So far, there have been six arrests on Thursday night including a homeless person who stood in support of the group.
“They just grabbed this woman as she was packing up the homeless kitchen which we had set up on the steps. It was really violent and it was in view of hundreds of people,” said 51-year-old Edgar.
She continued: “This dispersal zone is about not allowing people to support us, and they are refusing us food and water by our system, which is a pulley and bag.”
However a police spokeswoman disputed the claims and said: “Those inside the building are now in breach of an interim possession order which was issued earlier this week and they are committing an offence.”
“We have tried to work with the protesters to facilitate peaceful protest, and have also given them the option to leave the building and not face charges, even though they are in breach of the possession order and have committed damage to a grade-one-listed building – damage to the door and graffiti on the walls.”
“Those protesting say there are inadequate services for the homeless and set up a facility initially for homeless people within the building. A number of the homeless people have now left, and those that remain have been offered accommodation by the local authority,” she added.
But Edgar insisted the need to do more for those without shelter: “There’s a lot of homeless people living in a range of circumstances. Many of them are living in hostels which are dangerous and many of them were living on the streets,” she said.
“We have had a lot of people staying in here with different needs. Homeless people have a lot of issues, including addiction issues and benefits issues.”