Residents and campaigners in Southwark, south London, marched through the Aylesbury estate last Saturday to protest against plans to demolish it.
The march—called by Defend Council Housing and backed by other housing groups and trade unions—swelled to 300 people as passers-by joined in.
Margo lived on the Aylesbury for 15 years. She saw Tony Blair make his first speech as prime minister there.
She told Socialist Worker, “There are journalists paid tens of thousands of pounds to make this sound like the estate from hell. We’ve said no to demolition and the politicians have ignored us.”
Laura of Aylesbury Tenants and Leaseholders First told the crowd, “I’ve lived here for 30 years. I love my home. And I’ve always been able to afford the rent.”
She led chants of “Save the Aylesbury—no more Heygates”.
The Heygate estate was knocked down last year. Student Rubina’s relatives lost their homes—and had to leave south London to find somewhere they could afford.
She said, “It’s getting really expensive to stay in London. They need to stop demolishing council houses. Refurbish them—but don’t hand them over to private investors.”
A cheer went up when local Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate Nick Wrack called for building more council homes.
Since late January activists have occupied empty flats—and Southwark council has responded with metal fences and security guards.
Council tenant Dean supported the occupation. “Fighting the demolition is swimming against the tide—but you can’t give up hope,” he told Socialist Worker.
Protester Susanna said she’d voted Tory all her life, “but these occupations are the only way now. It’s impossible for young people to get even a small flat like we did in the 1970s.”
Occupiers diverted the protest into breaching the fences around previously occupied flats. Some activists got back inside—but most protesters scattered faced with clashes with security and cops.
The protest attracted a wide range of people worried about housing. But while the occupation has helped push the Aylesbury up the political and media agenda, there is a need for tactics that can broaden the movement.