This post is written against a background in which Occupy Liverpool recently “took possession” of an abandoned building in Liverpool city centre. The building “belongs” to Liverpool City Council and has been empty and available for sale for several years.
There is currently a battle over the public perception of squats and squatters, with politicians and the media desperate to portray them in a negative light while ignoring the scandal of empty, dilapidated spaces. The state clearly sees squatting as a threat to its authority and a direct challenge to the capitalist system itself, and it has gone to great lengths to try to criminalize it outright. I believe the best way to counter this is for squatters and occupiers to turn squatted buildings such as these over to positive social use as spaces for discourse, education and practical action, and perhaps as shelters, soup kitchens, medical facilities, counselling centres and a place where the public can be taught practical skills.
I believe the public would be far more supportive of these abandoned spaces being used in this way than of the “owners” of the spaces to allow them to rot, or to be turned into yet more “luxury” apartments unaffordable to the average local worker. Imaginative and positive use of such spaces can only be beneficial in showing that spaces such as these can be put to better use than as overpriced city centre luxury dwellings.
I hope that Occupy Liverpool can find suitable uses for their new location to provide something positive to the community of Liverpool and to allow the group to visibly challenge media perceptions of squats and the government’s continuing desire to criminalize squatting.