A Cautionary Tale – The eviction of a family squatting on Sandringham Road E8. “There is no such thing as squatters rights” […] “if we organise ourselves, the sky’s the limit: we can defend whole streets of squatters, as they started to do in Bride Street Junction: we could take over blocks of flats, new hotels, as they have done in Italy (and did in England after the war). We could stop communities like De Beauvoir and Mapledene being ‘redeveloped’ into luxury flats, and the poor being pushed out into new towns…
“Many of us have squatted ‘successfully’ – without being evicted – for a long time now. But it’s not enough: we haven’t won until there’s no more homeless, until the system that made us homeless and makes profit out of empty houses, that puts the rich in palaces and the poor in overcrowded ghettoes is TOTALLY OVERTHROWN.”
“There are squatters meetings every week in a different house: contact CENTERPRISE to find out when and where the next one is. CENTERPRISE, 34 Dalston Lane E8”
A Living Income For All – “I’m not interested in the right to work, what must come is the fight for a share of the wealth that’s going”
Shitting Bricks – builders’ strike.
Strikers and the SS – “The Social Security is the biggest strike fund of them all! Strikers are beginning to realise this on a large scale and organising with Claimants Unions to make sure they get their benefits”
Antisocial Insecurity – on how protest movements have forced welfare concessions from the state.
Courting the Union – the continuing saga of three Claimants Union members who were charged with criminal damage after a protest at the Lower Clapton Social Services office the previous February. The three defended themselves and challenged the jury selection process (rejecting managers from standing and challenging the lack of black jurors).
The main allegation was that the defendants “smashed up two cubicles and kicked open the door separating staff from claimants”.
The defendants countered this by highlighting discrepancies in the prosecution witnesses testimony and pointing out that “people had been waiting for over four hours, how the office was packed with about 80 claimants, how many of these claimants had been deprived of their rights, how the SS clerks stopped working apparently because of the noise and how one SS clerk, John Fawcett, hit a claimant in the face and smashed his camera. They all said that [defendant] Chris Ratcliffe had been sitting in the waiting area at the time of the damage and [defendant] Eddie Rose didn’t arrive until well afterwards. The defence witnesses described how the cubicles were smashed up by about 20 or 30 angry claimants.”
One defendant was acquitted, the other two were found guilty and conditionally discharged and ordered to pay £20 costs each.
Laughter in Court – another set of Claimants Union activist on trial, this time following a demonstration at Bonhill Street Social Security the previous March. 3 of the 4 defendants were women. One of them was pregnant and asked for an adjournment because she felt ill. This was refused and resulted in the defendants disrupting proceedings until an adjournment was granted.
Women and the Tory Rent Act – being disproportionately effected by rent increases.
Asian Invasion – against the Powellite racism against immigrants from Idi Amin’s repression against Asians in Uganda.
Plus updates on the Stoke Newington 8, attempted eviction of squatters by Acetel Housing Association and the usual classified ads (click to enlarge):
Despite the “this could be the last time” story on the back page (see above,) there was at least one further issue of Hackney Gutter Press.
(the yellow and red contrast on the cover didn’t scan at all well, so here is a photo)
Update January 2020: you can now view this issue (and others) as a complete PDF at the Sparrows Nest Archive.
Who Killed Aseta Simms?
Readers of the Gutter Press No. 2 will have seen the article on Stephen McCarthy who died at the hands of the Upper Street Police in Islington. They may not be aware that there are also a number of murderers in blue uniforms wandering freely round the streets of Hackney.
On 13th May 1971 a black woman, Mrs Aseta Simms of 47 Brighton Road, Stoke Newington was taken to Stoke Newington police station. She never came out alive.
This is what her cousin Faye remembers of the incident:
“I was with Aseta most of the day and till the time she left me she was perfectly healthy and normal. Mrs Simms was the landlady of Brighton Road and I went with her to a rent tribunal in Archway in the afternoon. She had been taken to the tribunal by Mrs Archer, the tenant upstairs – they never had very good relations.
“After that we went to my home. We didn’t have anything to drink but when Aseta left about 9:00pm she took with her a bottle of whiskey three quarters full which she’d bought the previous day. She went home to look after her kids..
“The next thing I heard about my cousin was about 2 o’clock in the morning when two policemen knocked on my door. They asked me a lot of questions about Aseta – how many kids? Who was looking after them? Where was her husband? But they wouldn’t tell me why they were asking. They said I had to come to the police station. They told me she was dead. The sergeant said they’d found her lying on the pavement near Stamford Hill. P.C King said she couldn’t sit up or stand up on her own and she had to lie down in the police station. He also said she was struggling and fighting and screaming. How could she do that if she was nearly unconscious? I have never seen Aseta drunk.”
AT THE INQUEST
Mrs Archer, the tenant who had taken Mrs Simms to the rent tribunal and had been given a week to get out said she had seen Mrs Simms very drunk earlier in the evening. Mrs Archer who admitted “Mrs Simms and I never did get on”, was taken to and from the coroners court in a police car.
G. 196 P.C. King testifies:
“I saw a coloured woman lying on a forecourt in Manor Road N16. I went to pick her up; she became terribly violent, grabbed my belt and began twisting it. After a struggle we got her into the van. We lifted her into the van and laid her out onto the floor. I then held her, both her wrists and P.C. 277 held her ankles.
AT THE STATION
“She was not capable of standing, her knees were badly bruised. I didn’t see any bruising over her eyes; come to think of it, I did see bruising over her head. We then put her on the floor in the cell. She was calm and snoring quite loudly. While in there the snoring began to diminish, I thought she was asleep.” Where did all the bruises come from?
Pig G. 277
“She was lying between cars and swearing, she appeared to be drunk even from a distance… Two hours later I went back to where we had picked her up and found a whiskey bottle leaning against a wall with some whiskey in it.”The pig says there was some whiskey left in the bottle therefore Mrs Simms drank less than three quarters of a bottle.
Sergeants 6.81 and 6.78 duly testified that they saw her struggling and shouting when taken into the van and into the police station, where she suddenly became semi-conscious presumably as a result of usual police pacifying tactics. As 6.78 says when they got her into the cell “Mrs Simms was incapable of doing anything – I returned later and saw G196 sitting outside on the stairs with head in hands and he told me that Mrs Simms had stopped breathing.”
“There was swelling above the right eye and bruising below. There was deep bruising over her head but no fracture, but the brain was swollen. There was alcohol in the blood stream. It is arguable that some people might die with this level of alcohol in the blood stream but we have had people with much higher levels who are still alive today. The bruising was consistent with someone falling about or with someone who had been beaten. I cannot truthfully say what was the cause of her death.” If she didn’t die from alcohol presumably it was from a beating.
The coroner, Douglas Chambers said “The Home Office says that the coroner has a choice to sit or not sit with the jury in special circumstances. There are special circumstances in this hearing, therefore under the Home Office rules for coroner’s courts, I shall sit with the jury.”
What the special circumstances were he didn’t say but they were presumably that the police might have been accused of murder. The verdict of the judge and the jury was Death by Misadventure. What WAS the coroner doing by going with the jury?
As far as we know the pigs involved with the death of Aseta Simms, G.196.G, G227, G.81 and G.78, are still wandering round Stoke Newington. They’ve probably been promoted.
Why no Inquiry?
Mrs Simms family and friends and the Black Unity and Freedom Party have been trying to get a public inquiry into the affair for over a year without success. It seems that the verdict of Death by Misadventure was true in a way. The pigs probably didn’t intend to kill Mrs Simms. It seems like the usual form of police harassment of black people and any others they don’t like. Black people, young people, longhaired people, are regularly stopped by the pigs at night, questioned, abused, pushed around, and if there is any reaction dragged into a van to be charged with assaulting the police or some such crap. On the way the pigs pass the time bashing them around. With Mrs Simms they made a mistake. She died. Remember Oluwale in Leeds?
Dockers Still Picketing Hackney Depot – more on the picket of Midland Cold Storage co, Waterden Lane.
Islington Squatters, the story so far (cartoon)
Hackney Squatters Union Demands Free Housing For All – “…Houses are money. With house prices rising 40% a year, the bosses are investing their ill-gained loot in property. Whether there are tenants or not is not really important. Either way they make money.
We are occupying an increasingly large number of empty homes in Hackney and are rebuilding them in the way we want. Our only chance of winning is when there are so many of us that it is physically impossible to remove us. If you are sick of paying high rents for poky little rooms. If they won’t even give you a poky little room. THEN COME AND JOIN US.
We are going to stand by each other and help each other in more ways than one. We plan to have play groups for our kids, food co-ops, transport available to us all and to share skills like knowledge of electrics, plumbing etc.
We are not a social service and we don’t plan to solve Hackney Borough Council’s housing policy for them. We are taking back what is rightfully ours. We are a union and we will help each other…”
[includes five contact addresses at the end – four in E8 and one in N1]
Hackney Gay Liberation Front:
[click the image to enlarge]
Campaigning against the Rents Bill:
Mad McElligott Gives In – more on Hackney Claimants Union members occupying Lower Clapton dole office as part of a campaign to get an old man a payment for slippers and a dressing gown so he could go into hospital. Two female HCU members were charged with threatening behaviour (knocking on the dole office door after they were removed) and assault. They both defended themselves in court in front of Magistrate McElligott. Laughter in the gallery and blustering from the police lawyers. One case dismissed, one adjourned.
The Best Form of Defence is Attack – on representing yourself in court, what to do when arrested, etc.
And: poems, classified ads, letters, brief news item about social security snoopers spying on women to see if they have boyfriends (so that their dole can be cut off!)
Issue 3 included a cover story about some Irish republicans being arrested in Hackney, extradited to Belfast for interrogation and then returned to London where they were charged with possession of arms and ammunition. After the four had been in prison on remand for eight months, the charges were dropped as it turned out they had been fitted up by a special branch spy cop.
A one page article on the the beginning of the trial of the Stoke Newington 8. Apparently there were 137 other “Angry Brigade” suspects.
A report back from a meeting of “between two and three hundred women… at the London College of Furniture in Commercial Street in Stepney”. Topics included wages for housework, campaigns to get better wages for cleaners, abortion, contraception, housing struggles.
“If he dies it will save us the expense” – apparently the words used by social security staff in response to a campaign to get a 74 year old man some essentials like a dressing gown in readiness for a hospital visit. You can read the full text of the article above.
Kick The Bastards Out – on dole snoopers.
Black Tenants Fight Back – on racist attacks against black families on Haggerston Estate, and a call for white tenants to show solidarity.
The Story of One Man’s House – “Hackney, it seems, has become the centre of interest for the mobile middle class. As everyone who has walked along the streets of the area in the last few months is aware, houses in Hackney have become the latest in fashion. The news has even got as far as the pages of the ‘Sunday Times’ who ran a story in the Magazine several weeks ago in which Stoke Newington, Hackney and Dalston were named as areas that are likely to become fashionable in the next few years. This is even more amazing in that the area has not got a single tube line going through the area, and if the GLC and British Rail have their way there will be one more motorway and one less rail line. The area is however beside the fashionable Islington and it is in direct line between the West End and the proposed new airport.”
The article goes to relate the story of someone trying to purchase a house on their road for £3,400 but getting gazumped by a developer who gives it a lick of paint and puts it back on the market for £13,000. Google says the same house is currently valued at £600,000…
Dockers and Containers – on the dockers’ strike and continuing picket of the Midland Cold Storage co, Waterden Lane (Hackney Wick, now slap bang in the Olympic Park).
Also poems, details of folk clubs, letters (including one of the Grosvenor Avenue arrestees referred to in the previous issue, who got a one year suspended sentence), small ads, an appeal for more people to get involved with laying out and distributing the paper.
Hackney Gutter Press was founded circa 1971 ‘by a group of people who are involved in organised activities such as Claimants Unions, squatting, Women’s Liberation, playhouses for children, food co-ops.’
The Hackney Gutter Press magazine seems more confrontational and subcultural than Hackney Action, which was being published at the same time. Gutter Press articles were sarcastic and sweary and already assumed a certain amount of scepticism of “the pigs”.
I have four issues (I’m missing issue 1) which all seem to have been published in 1972. (It seems that there were at least six issues in total.) Each of the ones I have is slightly larger than A4, with either 12 or 16 pages printed in a variety of coloured inks on paper in various colours. This has slightly tested my scanning skills, so apologies in advance.
Issue 2 contents include:
Planners, Tenants and Bulldozers – Hackney Council proposing to knock down over one hundred houses in Sandringham Road, Downs Park Road, Cecilia Road, Ferncliffe Road and Mountford Road – without telling the people living in them (because apparently, unlike their landlords, they had “no interest” in the properties).
The Slippery Sands of Housing Associations – “Housing associations were set up by the Government a few years ago as an attempt to do something about the housing situation. It was a situation that appealed mostly to the Tories, as Housing Associations were neither council housing which the Tories don’t like, nor private housing – although they could be turned into private housing later on.” – criticises housing associations for buying up properties and evicting the existing tenants. Second Actel Housing Association and its owner Mr Sands come in for particular scrutiny.
Ello Ello Ello – some general criticism of the police and a cynical and probably not very practical guide to making complaints against them. “Pig of the month: PC N399 from Kings Cross. He hangs around Shoreditch. Watch him. He’s nasty.”
Special Patrol Group in street-fight – “A couple of months ago five people, all members of Claimants’ Unions, were arrested following a street fight in Grosvenor Avenue, Stoke Newington, involving members of Scotland Yard’s riot trained Special Patrol Group. Three police, in a large transit van, pulled up as three people left number 29. They began to question the driver, Chris Ratcliffe, as to who the owner was, was he insured, had he got a licence, etc. Chris went into 29 to fetch the owner who came out with the relevant documents and assured the police that Chris was in legitimate possession of the vehicle. Within half an hour there had been a fight, a raid on the house and five people arrested…between twenty and thirty police searched the house and smashed up some furniture.”
The five represented themselves in court. Three of the charges were thrown out. Two men were given suspended sentences (it doesn’t say for what) and a woman was remanded on bail for using obscene language. The Hackney Gazette reported the incident as “Incidents near Angry Brigade HQ*” which “the people involved consider… a malicious libel… they are taking legal advice.”
*29 Grosvenor Avenue is described as a commune in various reports. Jake Prescott of the Stoke Newington 8 is said to have lived there. It included a radical print shop in the basement.
Sexual Planning, Sexual Nightmares – women share their experiences of the dehumanising family planning clinics in the borough.
Hackney Hospital Horrors – women share their experiences of the dehumanising maternity and post-natal care in the borough – and campaign for basic stuff like a play room for kids in the ante-natal clinic and longer visiting hours.
SS found guilty – and about time too – “As reported in Hackney Gutter Press No. 1, on Thursday, February 17th, the staff of the notorious Lower Clapton Social Security Office provoked a riot where claimants showed their anger by smashing up the barricaded cubicles. It was soon after this event that 3 Claimaints’ Union members were selected by the Social Security (SS) staff to be arrested and charged under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 – maximum penalty is 10 years!”
In summary – a member of Hackney Claimants’ Union tried to take a photo in the dole office and was punched in the face by a social security clerk and his camera smashed. The police came and arrested three Claimants’ Union members. The clerk was found guilty of assaulting a claimant. The charges against the claimants were adjourned. There is more on the case in future issues, as well as other material about the seemingly quite militant Hackney Claimants’ Union… to be continued!
In what would appear to be an unrelated story on the same page, a female Claimaints’ Union member was charged with assaulting the police by throwing a piece of chocolate (!) and was acquitted.
Collar Your Landlord – tips on taking him to a rent tribunal.
Plus – Brixton prison (“any man over the age of 21 living in Hackney and remanded in custody will almost certainly be sent to Brixton prison”), public transport (vs private cars), Who Killed Stephen McCarthy?, Hackney Workers Education Association meetings to discuss the Housing Finance Bill. And some small ads: