From the Hackney Gazette
Re your front page story (1 December, 2005) about the occupation of Francesca’s Café, 34 Broadway Market, I’d like to clarify a few things for your readers. That the local people and their friends and well-wishers have occupied the café for a ‘cause’ is quite correct. They have occupied the building to prevent its demolition in the hope that the café can be returned to Tony, so he can resume his business of 31 years.
The occupation is not therefore a ‘squat’, in the usually understood sense. People (most of whom have never done anything like this before)have been forced to take direct action to attempt to right a wrong that the legal system seems incapable of doing.
But there is another main reason for the occupation: to publicly object to the continued gentrification of the area. Hackney Council is colluding with property developers to clear out the small businesses that local working-class residents rely on, and replace them with shops that cater predominantly for rich newcomers and weekend visitors from the posher parts of Islington. They have sold under-valued properties at a cost of millions of pounds to Hackney Council Tax payers.
This so-called ‘regeneration’ is not of benefit to ordinary, local people. Not only are we poorer for the loss of these publicly-owned commercial properties, but many of the new cafes and restaurants are too expensive to eat in. Tony’s was one of the very few places on the market where people could meet and eat at affordable prices.
Hackney Independent fully supports the occupation and encourages well-wishers to visit the café for a cup of tea to find out more about what is going on.
I was slightly bemused to read Cllr Crowe’s comments about the massive sell off of council properties being down to “legally binding directions from the government”. Can she clarify for us exactly which party was running the government at the time? It is either a Labour council or a Labour governmen to blame, or probably both. As a Labour party member Cllr Crowe’s attempt to pass the buck between the two doesn’t really cut much ice.
Compared to this sort of double-speak, the clear words and actions from the protestors at 34 Broadway Market came as a breath of fresh air, and I offer them my full support.