Friday, July 10, 2009

Salters’ Company threatens us with ‘the authorities’

As I said in the previous blog “Still no resolution!”, on Tuesday and Wednesday night we arrived to our sleeping pitch – a porch of the Salters’ Hall located on a derelict highwalk (see blog of 5 June “Salters back in the spotlight” for two Google map photos of the pitch) – to find petrol or diesel spilt about the porch floor. Last night it was even better: three notices on official company headed paper - one sellotaped to a large wooden free standing stand - stating as follows:


Please be aware that the Salters’ Company has NOT authorized anyone to use or sleep in the doorways or stairwells of the Salters’ Hall and anyone found to be disregarding this notice will be reported to the authorities.

The Salters’ Company, one of the Twelve Great City Livery Companies, has its origins in the City of London of the fourteenth century, and describes itself as a company very largely devoted to charity; it also plays an important part in the system of local government in the City of London, reflecting its historical roots. In fact, communications started out cordial between us: the company not only fund raises for science education (Declan’s petition to the United Nations on research cloning of embryos and stem cells has been signed by 591 scientists and academics, including 24 Nobel laureates, and despite many months of serious spamming), but runs a project for the homeless.

Anyway, as I was writing the notice on paper, I joked to Declan that I half-expected to be woken up in the middle of the night by somebody on a horse wearing a big curly wig with ‘the authorities’ behind him to make sure we would be taken away in chains! I think Salters’ Company needs to catch up with realities of the 21st century. In the June 2008 issue of The Pavement, a free magazine for London’s homeless, there is a story under the title “Rough sleeper evicted from car park”. It points out that the local council needed a court order to get a rough sleeper moved on from a multi-storey Hampshire car park.

We have been sleeping in this porch since January. (For some months prior to this, we slept about twenty paces from the front entrance of the same building, down some twelve steps. Prior to that, we slept for almost two years in a porch at street level until a trellis gate was installed … on Declan’s birthday!) An article in the April 2007 issue of the Police Review magazine, titled “Rough Sleepers”, points out that “people have the right to sleep in the streets if they want to”, and that in this respect police “need to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998”. Of course, we don’t want to be sleeping in the streets but have no choice, having been put to the street by the Department for Work and Pension (see previous blog).

Curiously, the May 2008 issue of The Pavement says that shopkeepers in the big tourist area of the Strand (Westminster area) are abandoning City of London Police “No sleeping” signs on their shop fronts, claiming that they are no longer effective and that they prefer to call the police if they have any problems or incidents. Perhaps it is worth noting here that our sleeping pitch is located on a derelict highwalk, we bed down around 10.00pm, get up about 6.00am, and don’t drink or smoke.

Anyway, I am all up for another arrest tonight; exhibits for the solicitor appointed to me all a go. A court order didn’t mean squat to the City of London Police last September when four officers arrested me because I refused to move on as a result of having nowhere else to sleep (see blog of 11 September “I am arrested for ‘breach of the peace’”; I was later released because I “wasn’t breaching the peace anymore”). I doubt that they are any more fazed by the Human Rights Act 1998 than they were then. Could be an interesting night!

This photograph shows Rachel Cooke being presented with an award by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, the Master of the Salters' Company. The ceremony was held at the Salters' Hall on Thursday, 7 December 2000.

Salters' Prizegiving Ceremony. This photograph shows Rachel Cooke being presented with an award by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, the Master of the Salters' Company. The ceremony was held at the Salters' Hall on Thursday, 7 December 2000.