Private security guards and police stormed a building in Dublin, Ireland, on October 27 to evict a group of activists who had been busy there and who were using the site as a community space. After a 10-hour standoff, the activists recovered the building and began to repair the damage. Building residents and advocates say the eviction was disproportionately violent and destroyed living space in a country facing a housing and homeless crisis.
On September 18, 2021, a group of people called That Social Center moved into an empty building at 23 Prussia Street in northwest Dublin, and named it Sunnyvale. The building had been abandoned for up to 10 years.
On the morning of October 27, private security guards entered the building under the pretext of evicting the neighbors, who say they were violently attacked and destroyed their belongings.
Ireland has the Tenth highest rate of vacant homes in the world, with 9.1 percent, with more than 180,000 empty or abandoned buildings. At the same time, the country is experiencing a homeless crisis, particularly in the capital.
‘The neighbors had called the gardaí and began to defend the men who were being violent instead of the neighbors’
Jess Bernard is an “Advocacy Officer” for the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU) and helps coordinate events for That Social Center. He arrived in Sunnyvale about an hour after the eviction began.
At 7 am yesterday [October 27], a group of armed men, and even some teenagers, arrived at the social center and broke in to violently evict the people who only slept in their beds. There was absolutely no warning. They broke in using brute force. I was notified along with other community organizers via WhatsApp.
Eviction at 23 Prussia st. The Heavies came in, beat us and took us out. They wrecked our trucks, the house, the rooms, they are flooding the place now. One of us fled to the roof and held it for a while before being pushed away. Come support us! pic.twitter.com/cJatFbmGsZ
– ThatSocialCentre (@thatsocialcentr) October 27, 2021
A video taken on October 27, 2021 shows members of a private security group on the roof at 23 Prussia Street. The men use force to remove one of the residents from the rooftop site.
When I arrived, people were being escorted off the property. The gardaí [Irish police] they were actively helping these hired thugs, who had been very, very violent. The neighbors had called the gardaí and the agents began to defend the men who were being violent instead of the neighbors. I saw the gardaí helping these men in and out of the property, men who were destroying people’s belongings and simply ruining the property. The Gardaí were escorting residents to remove what was left of their belongings. People were injured and bleeding. And a crowd of CATU members and local residents was gathering to try to support the people who were being evicted.
the Gardaí said that a “property owner, in compliance with a court order, was securing a premises and facilitating access for people to take their personal effects.” The owners of the site, The McGrath Group, told The Irish Times that they were issued a warrant by Dublin City Council to evict the squatters in order to prevent “serious fires and security risks”.
The McGrath Group had submitted a planning request for demolish the building and construct 160 apartment units in the place. The project, which will include “a series of residential amenities including a cafeteria, movie theater, gym and concierge,” is scheduled to begin in late 2022.
Sunnyvale residents and CATU advocates say they were never informed of the eviction, that the court order in question 2018 dates, and that the show of force and destruction of property was illegal and unjustified.
‘Everyone’s possessions had been smashed with bats. Everything was destroyed ‘
Sunnyvale residents and activists re-entered the building after security personnel had left. But they encountered a grim scene.
Once the thugs finished destroying the property as much as they could, they fled through the back wall and residents entered through the front roof. So, the residents took back the property around 5 p.m., but there is always the risk that the men will return.
The bailiffs fled with their tails between their legs! The space is ours again. We ask that people come out again at 6pm to show their support and really insist that we will not tolerate evictions in our communities!
Thank you so much, you are all legends! pic.twitter.com/Yh2Eiof1yA
– ThatSocialCentre (@thatsocialcentr) October 27, 2021
A video shared on Twitter on October 27, 2021 shows activists and police officers clashing as the private security personnel who led the eviction at 23 Prusia Street fled the scene.
Oil had been spilled on people’s beds. The roof was completely destroyed, and when it started to rain later that night, water was entering the building. Everyone’s possessions had been destroyed with bats. Everything was destroyed. They smashed the toilets with bats so that no one could use the bathroom. They tried turning on the water to flood the house, so there’s basically an inch of water all over the house.
A thread of the damage caused to people’s homes and lives in today’s illegal eviction attempt. Cruel, unnecessary, violent. An attack on the community spirit in Dublin. You can donate to his rebuilding fund at [email protected] pic.twitter.com/t0oEMjeuGJ https://t.co/c957bsRSB7
– CATU Ireland (@CatuIreland) October 27, 2021
Photos shared to Instagram and Twitter on October 27 show the damage to the residence at 23 Prussia Street after private security guards attempted to render the property uninhabitable.
Destruction of property is making it uninhabitable so that people do not return. And the abuse and assault were completely unjustified, it’s a scary tactic to make sure people don’t come back.
Less police presence at this time. More protesters arriving by the minute. Friendly and supportive atmosphere pic.twitter.com/Ea1mqDCnOn
– Daragh (@NitramDaragh) October 27, 2021
On the night of October 27, 2021, activists gathered in the street around Prusia 23 street to show their support for the residents of the building after the eviction attempt.
#DerelictIreland: an epidemic of abandoned buildings
According to Bernard, the main goal of the 23 Prussia Street renovation was to provide a place to live for people affected by homelessness in Dublin, including some immigrants and transgender youth.
Dublin is a city full of unaffordable property and there is a huge homeless crisis right now. Wherever you go you see [vacant derelict buildings]. The planning board is increasingly approving permits for hotels, living units and apartments built for rent; They are not creating safe houses, but are becoming profit centers for private developers. Many sites remain unoccupied because they prefer to remain empty rather than allow people to live on them.
With so many vacant or abandoned buildings in Ireland, people on social media have been using the hashtag #DerelictIreland to share images of abandoned and unused buildings in the country.
Parnell Street and the streets around it are full of neglect, but this end of Parnell Street where it meets Capel Street is horrible and has been that way for years. #derelictIreland # derelictDublin pic.twitter.com/5wy4ROTIZo
– The Eco Eye team (@EcoEye) September 17, 2021
People in Ireland have started using the hashtag #DerelictIreland to share empty and abandoned buildings in the country.
Meanwhile, Ireland is experiencing a homeless crisis, particularly in Dublin, where 70% of the country’s homeless population is found. There was at least 8,000 people homeless in Ireland in June 2021, and service providers have warned of an increase in people entering emergency housing.
Government has proposed or started several projects renovate or renovate vacant buildings into subsidized housing, but few funds have been released to begin development.
Activists and residents of Sunnyvale have been raising money to repair the property damage, hoping to stay there as long as possible and restart their community activities.