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#SaveNour Zoom protest
Courtesy #SaveNour

Housing activists crashed landlord’s Zoom party to protest forced evictions

Brixton Market’s owner had his live DJ set hijacked by demonstrators after serving an eviction notice to a supermarket during the coronavirus pandemic

With the majority of the world still trapped inside due to the coronavirus crisis, most real life interactions are off the cards. Instead, people are turning to Zoom for work meetings, pub quizzes, and sex parties. Now, activists are using the platform as a site for virtual protests.

Activist group #SaveNour hijacked a live DJ set by billionaire and Brixton Market owner Taylor McWilliams on Saturday (April 25) in protest against his company’s eviction of local supermarket, Nour Cash & Carry. 

McWilliams was performing with his DJ collective, Housekeeping, when demonstrators dressed as partygoers took over the stream, holding up signs that read: ‘Hey Taylor! You party while your tenants suffer. Stop evictions in Brixton Market now!’ And: ‘Evicting food suppliers during a pandemic? Cruel Brixton gentrifiers.’

“We’ve got to find creative ways to challenge a billionaire,” #SaveNour tells Dazed. “Even though so many of us in the community support Nour, we can’t gather to protest because of the pandemic. It seems Hondo thought they could press on with the eviction and we wouldn’t be able to stand up to them, so we crashed Zoom to show Taylor that the community is watching.”

The group continues: “Brixton has a rich cultural history, and legendary nightlife. Housekeeping allows Taylor McWilliams to look like a fun-loving DJ who belongs in Brixton, but the reality is that he’s treating the community harshly.”

#SaveNour says it knew the action would “capture people’s imagination” and get the campaign more attention. “We jammed the Zoom chat with messages (about the eviction) that went out to over a thousand people at the gig.”

“When we took over the chat, gig organisers brought on a new moderator and started booting us off one by one,” the activists explain, “but some of us held back on messaging until the end of Housekeeping’s gig so we could jam up their feed one last time.” The group says it got positive responses from partygoers, adding that the petition to Save Nour has gained hundreds of new signatures since the Zoom invasion. 

“Housekeeping allows Taylor McWilliams to look like a fun-loving DJ who belongs in Brixton, but the reality is that he’s treating the community harshly”

McWilliams’ Hondo Enterprises acquired the leasehold of Brixton Market in April 2018, and quickly evicted 30 artists from their long-standing studio spaces in Brixton Village, and shut down Club 414, which had been a staple for partygoers for over 30 years. In October last year, Hondo told Nour Cash & Carry – which has been in business for 20 years – that it wanted to renegotiate the retailer’s rent. In January, the store announced that it had been served an eviction notice.

“It is with great sadness that after 20 years of trading, we have been served a Section 25 to leave our unit on July 22 2020,” read a sign in the window of Nour Cash & Carry. “We will keep you informed of all developments, and thank you for your continued support. We would not be where we are now without this wonderful community who we have the pleasure of calling family.”

Nour Cash & Carry is a vital resource for Brixton’s Caribbean community, as well as local restaurants, with the supermarket serving 90 per cent of those in Brixton Market and the surrounding areas.

At the time of writing, the petition to save the retailer has gained over 4,800 signatures of its 5,000 target. “Brixton has changed dramatically over the past 10 years,” reads the petition, “but the change cannot be at the expense of the people who have always served the community.”

Following the success of its Zoom protest, #SaveNour plans to “keep the pressure on”. The group concludes: “People in Brixton won’t stand for Taylor McWilliams evicting the heart of our community. The demand is simple: stop the eviction now. Any time Housekeeping have a gig, we will be there. He needs to understand that you can’t be a billionaire evicting local businesses, and enjoy DJing on the side. We won’t back down.”

Sign the petition to Save Nour here.

Update (April 28): Hondo has sent an email statement to Dazed. It reads: “We are not carrying out any evictions at this time and have been in discussions with Nour for almost a year. Hondo has invested extensively with regards to heating, drainage, and the infrastructure within the Market, however, the lack of power still remains a major challenge with regular power cuts for the 50 traders in Market Row. In order to support all a traders, we are required to build a new electrical substation which UK Power Networks informed us had to go in Nour’s unit. After exploring a number of solutions for Nour Cash and Carry, including Hondo building a new unit for them at our cost, we are pleased to be in the positive, final stages of discussions to retain them within Brixton Market. We hope to have details of this agreement very soon.”

Housekeeping has also made a written statement to Dazed: “The livestream event was organised by Pacha to raise money for Creu Roja (Red Cross). It was a pleasure for Housekeeping to take part in the effort to raise much-needed money for charity and provide some entertainment to music lovers around the world who are currently under lockdown. Housekeeping is a DJ collective with multiple members, and is focused on music and events. One of our members, Taylor, has a separate business unrelated to Housekeeping, which was the subject of the grievances. Our understanding is that Hondo is not evicting any tenants at this time, and is in the final stages of a deal that would keep the tenant in question in the market. As a DJ collective separate to this business, we are not in a position to comment any further on this matter.”