Sweets Way has been fighting demolition for months – today marked the end of the brave battle and another example of the city’s apathy towards community
Sweets Way is the housing estate in North London – a former Ministry of Defence site – that had come to embody public resistance to regeneration at any cost. All 142 homes on Sweets Way are to be demolished, with 288 built in their place. It’s unlikely that any of the residents forced out will be able to afford any of the homes being built on Sweets Way – a familiar story. Some residents stayed on Sweets Way, while squatters took over homes that people had deserted. Local traders and handymen helped out residents for free and the community set about sharing their existence and responsibilties for maintaining the estate, while also keeping out the demolition men. But it couldn’t last forever.
Today saw the end of the brave Sweets Way resistance. As heavy, cold rain fell onto the empty houses, Mostafa Aliverdipour was left to sit in his wheelchair as police officers dragged the remaining squatters from the estate. Aliverdipour, a father of four and 52 year old wheelchair user, was the final council tenant to be removed from the estate.
At around 7.30am, he was removed from his home by officers. Yesterday, prior to conclusion of the case, the same officers surrounded the community – they knew the outcome before it had been announced. Indeed, one of the resistors shouted down from the rooftops to tell them who they’d be evicting. The officer responded with a blank shrug; no, he did not care.
For a while, it looked as if Sweets Way might make it. According to Alverdipour’s son, the squatters and activists who had occupied the area had been helpful in drawing media attention to the estate and to the cruelty of redevelopment. But, of course, this almost romantic tale of resistance had to end. Due to the media presence, officers decided to pull Aliverdipour out of his home in the early hours of the morning. The family allege that they were awoken by shouts and the smashing of glass which shattered across Aliverdipour’s bedding. Afterwards, he was carried out in his wheelchair and left to sit in the rain with his remaining possessions.
According to Aliverdipour, he is expecting to have to sleep in his car because Barnet Homes, Barnet council’s housing arm, has not offered him a home that is suitable for someone with his level of disability. His young son, Hossein, confirmed this but went on to explain how there was no downstairs bathroom in the offered property.
However, opinion is not totally unified about the summertime resistance at Sweets Way. Among the security stood some previous residents of Sweets Way, who were also evicted from their homes earlier this year. Both of these women were mothers who said that their children didn’t understand what was happening to their former homes. Not only did they find the graffiti on the walls disturbing but that there had almost been too much drunkenness in the streets. But, one did add, that they respected the activists who responded to the requests for more peaceful behaviour. Additionally, she mentioned that she had been relocated to a house that her young son was "too frightened" to walk down the street to and that her children’s education had been disrupted several times due to their removal from the estate.
A true tragedy of relocation is how the process decimates communities and the bonds between groups who stand in solidarity with one another. Whatever you think of squatters or activists, their ideological stances appear to be aligned with the needs of the communities who are being removed from their homes to make way for luxury flats. Yet, frustratingly, it seemed that during the human clearout of Sweets Way, grievances about London’s housing crisis were being aired between activists and past residents rather than directed at London’s politicians.
Another community has been disrupted to make way for a group of richer individuals. When is enough...enough?