Bailiffs and riot police screamed aggressively as they smashed their way through barricades at The Bohemia pub during a dramatic eviction of squatters this evening.
Around two dozen members of the Occupy movement put up little resistance as High Court bailiffs and police officers armed with batons and police dogs bulldozed their way into the building shortly before 5.30pm.
The eviction, ordered by a district judge yesterday, had been imminent since midday today but administrators of the pub were forced to apply for High Court bailiffs in order to force the eviction tonight.
As news filtered through at about 5pm that the court application had been granted and the bailiffs were on their way, squatters began reinforcing barricades on the doors and gathering their possessions ready to resist the raid.
But the blunt force of more than 30 large bailiffs and police officers meant the barricades were breached inside three minutes.
The enforcement staff screamed “get back” as they smashed down the rear doors of the pub, while the squatters, seemingly shocked into submission, could be heard shouting “we’re leaving” and “we’re not resisting” during the chaotic reclamation.
It was an aggressive end to the peaceful six-week occupation of the popular community pub, which closed suddenly in August.
Squat leader Pete Phoenix, who represented the group at two district court hearings earlier this month, spoke to the Times Series after the dramatic raid.
He said: “I’ve had worse – they didn’t use CS gas. But it was a total overreaction on their part to storm in 24 hours after the court order and to use so many police and the resources of the High Court. It was a complete waste of time and money.
“They shouted and screamed a lot – why can’t people just talk to each other?”
Many of the squatters told the Times Series they felt frightened as the bailiffs stormed the building, and several have been left with nowhere to go this evening.
One squatter, Daniel, said: “This is how they do it when no-one is watching. We were never going to resist that sort of aggression.”
The squatters gained access to the pub in September and have reopened the empty building to the public in recent weeks, hosting a full schedule of community activities and events.
Another squatter Warrick, who told the Times Series that tonight was his first experience of being removed by bailiffs, said: “It was scary and intimidating but I trusted the authorities not to beat our faces in.
“They tried to be as aggressive as they possibly could but, for what was a token peaceful resistance, it was excessive.”
Most of the squatters were left gathering their possessions in the car park as they were hauled out by removal men shortly before 6pm, but Mr Phoenix remained defiant in defeat.
He said: “We have friends in other squats that will put us up and members of the local community have offered to take some of us in tonight.
“This was one of the best community projects I have been involved in and we have enjoyed running it over the past few weeks.
“There is a huge demand for community activities around here and we were able to provide a centre for people to have that – we’ll be back somewhere.”