New Cross library occupation: the final hours

This post follows part one from last night.

New Cross Library Occupation by Odd_dog, on Flickr

I didn’t get much sleep last night, but that was because I was up late blogging and tweeting about the New Cross library occupation, and awake early (for a Sunday) to return for more coverage this morning. I did at least still sleep in an actual bed. The occupiers, seen above in a photo by Odd_dog on Flickr, made do with the floor beneath the computer desks in New Cross library, shielding their eyes somewhat from the lights, which remained on all night.

I caught up on the overnight media coverage, and tuned into BBC London 94.9 to hear a short item on the 9am news bulletin including phoned-in comments from James Holland – previously known as “the man standing up” in last night’s second photo.

We arrived back at the library at about 10am, to find it had acquired both a media and a police presence. One or two photographers, at least two interviewers and a TV camera were now in the building. A number of the protesters were being interviewed on camera by a man sporting a BBC pass.

A BBC TV interview with one of the occupiers being recorded

As 10.30am approached, with 90 minutes remaining of the intended occupation period, thoughts turned to ensuring the library was left in at least as clean and tidy a state as it had been found in. My librarian wife put her skills to good use by beginning to round up and reshelve as accurately as possible the books the occupiers had been entertaining themselves with throughout the night!

Things took a strange turn at 10.45, when a policeman approached the protesters to convey a new position on behalf of the council. (He seemed somewhat aggrieved throughout that he was being asked to implement this arrangement, incidentally.)

I paraphrase as best I can from memory:

The library is closed on Sundays. This building is closed. You’re all in here and you’re not causing trouble; we won’t be attempting any kind of forced eviction. However, the council has asked that we do not allow anyone into the building, because it is closed. If you leave the building, you will not be allowed to return into it.

Occupiers clarified that he did indeed mean this on an individual basis rather than just a collective one: it wasn’t merely that once all occupiers had vacated the premises, there would be no prospect of starting another occupation; rather, if any individual went outside for any reason, the police now stationed at the entrance would not allow them back in.

The scene at the New Cross library doorway at 11.25 on 6 Feb

This news was met with some surprise and confusion by the protesters. From the outset the occupation had consistently been spoken about as lasting until midday on Sunday (including on BBC London 94.9, and at the original discussion at the read-in in front of the head of libraries), so the occupiers asked – but were never told – why the situation had suddenly changed when they were in any case barely an hour away from calling their occupation to an end. It subsequently transpired that the policeman had never actually been informed that everyone was intending to leave at midday.

Relations deteriorated further at 11am, when the security guard was suddenly instructed to lock the door to the toilet. This news was met with howls of outrage as the protesters cried that they needed the washing facilities in there in order to ensure they could clean up properly after their coffee and breakfast and not leave the library in a mess.

“Don’t worry about it, just leave the mess,” said the security man, but the occupiers were horrified by this, partly as library-lovers not wanting to soil the place, and partly out of fear of subsequent misportrayal: occupiers mess up library they claim to love, that kind of thing.

The protesters’ indignation quickly turned to amusement, however, as the security guard reached the last of the available keys on his keyring and realised he didn’t actually have one which could lock the toilet. As he returned to the front desk, a protester formed a human doorstop against the toilet’s open door and the clean-up continued.

Occupiers begin making their way towards the exit as midday approaches, 6 Feb

As midday approached, the occupiers gathered their belongings and began assembling near the exit of the library. Someone thought the kettle they had brought had gone missing, and began shouting “Kettle? Kettle?”, prompting a response about being careful not to give the police any ideas – and the revelation that someone had already packed it.

No trace of the occupiers' breakfast, games, reading material etc. remained by the time they left the library: this photo was taken at 11.59 on 6 Feb

And so, just after midday, nineteen hours after the occupation began, the gathered protesters…

New Cross library occupation ends 006

…filed out of the library, past the now-cheerful security guard…

New Cross library occupation ends 021

…and onto the street, chanting anti-cuts slogans while footage of their exit was filmed which was to form the backbone of ITV London Tonight’s top news story this evening.

Non-TV footage was also filmed by a few people and can be seen on YouTube, for instance here by ‘kernel’:

The protesters stayed outside the library for a few minutes, as it was secured and the last shutter brought most of the way down while security staff finished checking the building.

The shutter is lowered in front of occupiers' OPEN NOW sign as the New Cross library occupation ends, 12.05, 6 Feb

Then they took their banners down…

Protesters remove their occupation banner from New Cross library, 12.05, 6 Feb

…and they went their separate ways, leaving the library closed until Tuesday, but with thousands more regular openings to come – they hope.

New Cross library just after the protesters had all departed, 12.10, 6 Feb

Latest list of coverage elsewhere (last updated 23.20, 9 Feb)

Photos and text © me, again. Please comment if you wish to use them anywhere else and we can discuss this! Links to these posts are always very welcome of course.

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6 Responses

  1. [...] New Cross library occupation: the final hours [...]

  2. WELL DONE EVERYONE
    GREAT MESSAGES BEING SENT TO LEWISHAM COUNCIL,
    MORE OF THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO SAVE OUR SERVICES
    SOLIDARITY TO ALL INVOLVED
    PAULO

  3. [...] New Cross library occupation: the final hours « SE13URE Part two (tags: society politics protest) [...]

  4. Hi,

    Wondered if I can use your inside story in our new FREE local newspaper – eight16news – as we want to highlight what is happening within the area from the point of view of those involved.

    You can see our first edition on our website and our second will be going to print this weekend.

  5. [...] New Cross library occupation: the final hours « SE13URE Part two (tags: society politics protest) [...]

  6. Hi there, I’m a student at Goldsmiths’ College and myself and a group are currently in the editing process of a short doc which looks at New Cross Learning as it is and looks at how far it has come. Your photos and video would really help with the edit so I was hoping I could have larger resolution copies if possible. It would really help.

    Angus

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