Around 12 people were arrested in Parliament Square last night after pro-squatting campaigners staged what was designed to be a peaceful protest.
At midnight, 150 people collected near the Houses of Parliament with plans to hold a Halloween picnic in demonstration of their opposition to the Ministry of Justice’s proposed changes to laws affecting squatting.
The changes, which will be debated this week, will make the squatting of an unoccupied residential property a criminal offence (it is currently a civil offence).
Problems started when police asked the group to move on, insisting that it is an offence to hold unauthorised protests at Westminster. The group insisted they weren’t protesting but were exercising their right of free speech by collecting at the site, with some refusing to leave.
The arrests come in the wake of controversy stirred after the justice secretary put forward the changes as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, just three weeks after a consultation on squatting, Options for dealing with squatting, was held.
The paper received 2,217 responses.
Pro-sqautting groups claim the majority of responses called for squatting not to be criminalised and that the goverment has ignored this.
- Should sqautting be criminalised? Read: The untold story of squats – gentrification and regeneration and join the debate