When a dinner costs more than rent

photo by Bex Wade

“Cockroaches”, “sc*m” and “eat the rich” were among the shouts spat by protesters in London at the yesterday’s demo for better housing conditions in the UK.

Around 50 protesters gathered in front of Marriot Hotel Park Lane at Grosvenor House, Mayfair where a Property Developers Awards ceremony was held from 6 pm. The action was initiated by a London-based civil group for sexuality, gender and human rights called Sexual Avengers. The activists’ aim was to demonstrate fury over Britain’s housing crisis, closure of community centres and LGBTQI+ venues, as well as gentrification of London.

Property awards ceremony was chosen in order to express dismay to “people who prefer building and selling grand buildings” instead of affordable social housing, according to the campaigners. Additionally, their anger was caused by the attendants paying £396 per ticket to be at the ceremony, when most of the protesters squat or know people who do so.

Chanting in megaphones and dancing to Village People’s YMCA, the angry group showed off old Converses and faded leather jackets with stickers “Landlords are Parasites” to a parade of tuxedos and cocktail dresses. Some young men, with heavily glittered moustaches and bright lipsticks, proudly held “Property is Theft” and “Eat the Rich” placards. At some point, a homeless campaigner dumped cockroaches on the doorstep of the hotel. Later, an orange smoke flare was ignited to add spice to the protest. Throughout the demo, the property awards’ attendees had been sneaking quickly between the crowd, ushered by the police inside the barriers that separated the hotel’s entrance and the activists. All this time, the hotel staff had been passively staring at the scene.

The squatting collective Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians (ANAL), who was recently in the media spotlight for taking over a Russian billionaire Andrey Goncharenko’s empty mansion in Belgravia, was also present.

Mickey Mix, an Avenger, said: “Housing crisis is getting worse and people with mental illnesses and LGBTQ people are worse off as well. They are the most vulnerable. I know this because I trained as a mental health nurse, and I’ve been a social worker since the 1960s.”

According to the Independent, two years ago about 83, 000 people aged 16–25 relied on charities for a shelter. Also, more than 35, 000 young people lived in homeless accommodations across the UK. In 2016, Tim Sigsworth MBE, Chief Executive of the Albert Kennedy Trust, stated: “Homeless LGBT young people are one of the most disenfranchised and marginalised groups within the UK.” Back then, approximately 4,800 young LGBT people were homeless, which was 24% of the youth homeless population in the country.