Bristol’s Cheltenham Road is lined with anger as protests continue
By dominic harris
SQUATTERS were due to be evicted today from a building opposite a controversial new supermarket being picketed by protesters.
The two groups are divided by the busy Cheltenham Road but bound together by a shared opposition to what they call “the system” and corporate consumerism.
More than a dozen squatters have been living at Telepathic Heights, a three-storey building that is covered in graffiti murals and stands next to the Jesters comedy club.
The community has been there for 18 months but a court order means they are set to be evicted from the council-owned property.
The council wants to sell it for development into flats, but the squatters say that is not what people want.
Yesterday some of them sat outside the building on sofas in defiance, while a makeshift barrier had been put up across the stairs leading to the front door.
About a dozen people sat on the roof playing music in the sun, and last night the squatters hosted a “pre-eviction party”.
The 28-year-old, who has lived there for 11 months, said: “It is our home, not just a squat. We have cleared the whole roof off, cleared away all the needles, put carpets in and fixed the plumbing.
“We have accepted the fact that we are going to have to be evicted, but people are resisting.
“The message is one of freedom, not just getting stuck in the system or having a 9-5pm job.”
Ben Richie, who lives in Montpelier and is part of the local squatting network, said: “Developers are going to make flats which will be far too dear for people in the area to afford.”
Across Cheltenham Road outside the new Tesco Express shop 15 protestors waved placards, played music and spoke out against the company, cheering as cars beeped their horns in support.
The protestors have been there since the shop opened last Friday and say they will stay for as long as it takes to get their message across.
Paul Saville, 25, a UWE sociology and criminology student who lives on Gloucester Road, said: “Twelve months ago Tesco forced its way into the community, and now the community is speaking back.
“We have 31 Tescos in Bristol – far too many. I am not against supermarkets, but we have to look at what impact they are having on local communities.”
Roger Cole, who ran an organic food shop in Stokes Croft, said: “A lot of people feel we should protest until Tesco goes away. This campaign is already costing Tesco a fortune coming here in the teeth of such opposition, and hopefully sooner or later they will get fed up.”
Police warned the protestors yesterday about blocking the pavement, and when the shop opened on Friday four people were arrested for public order offences and criminal damage.
One person urinated on the shop front and others threw paint and bottles at the windows.
Tesco spokeswoman Melanie Chiswell said 3,000 customers had been through the doors since the shop opened.
She said: “The protestors clearly don’t represent the views of the wider community because people are shopping with us and are choosing to vote with their feet.
“It is unfortunate that people have resorted to criminal damage to make their point.
“Lots of customers have spoken to staff and said how pleased they are that we are there and how sympathetic they are to staff having to deal with protesters outside the shop.”