The new owners of No 1 Commercial Street in Aldgate East, London have agreed to hold talks over ending the use of segregated entrances at its tower block of flats.
It comes after 19 weeks of noisy and good humoured protests by the working class action group Class War.
The move by the under-pressure owners could herald the end of separate rich and poor doors in housing developments across the capital and UK.
It follows an historic first meeting between Class War and Taylor McWilliams, the executive director of Hondo Enterprises.
Previous owners Redrow quit the development after Class War’s weekly campaign against this class apartheid in East London.
On Monday (24 November) six campaigners from Class War – which is standing candidates across London and the UK in next May’s General Election – emerged from hours of talks with McWilliams to announce a “ceasefire” in their protests.
The Class War protests take place every Wednesday from 6pm to 7pm. This week’s protest is week 20 and will be the last before the ceasefire takes effect.
The protests have been fun, noisy and creative with samba bands, dancing, flares, party poppers, the occupation of the rich doors foyer and even the burning of an effigy of Mayor of London Boris Johnson on Bonfire Night.
Unfortunately that led to a police attack on the protesters and arrests.
Ian Bone, who founded Class War in the 1980s and has been at the centre of the protests, said:
“Mr McWilliams has agreed to set up a meeting of all those who have ownership or interest in some part of the building – from housing associations to Hondo – to discuss the possibility of ending this class apartheid.
“This meeting will be agreed before the end of the year. In return Class War have agreed a ceasefire in protests outside til this meeting takes place. The ceasefire starts after this Wednesday’s protest, which will be special!”
“We have won unprecedented talks that show how our determination, energy and persistence now means social segregation in entrances to accommodation in the capital and around the UK is no longer a done deal. We can stop them.”
But he warned:
“Class War will return to the protests without hesitation if this class apartheid isn’t ended.”
Last week campaigners from the New Era estate in Hoxton, East London joined Class War in a victory celebration after they forced out owner Tory MP Richard Benyon for hiking rents and threatening to evict tenants and their families.
On the same night, a resident of 1 Commercial Street who uses the rich doors came out and backed the Class War protest in a speech.
She then invited Class War protester Lisa Mckenzie to go in through the rich doors to inspect the flats.
The police barricaded the doors and only agreed to let her and the protester in after 20 minutes of tense negotiations.
Lisa Mckenzie who attended the unprecedented talks with Taylor McWilliams said:
“I feel extremely positive about the meeting. I felt that he understood that all apartheid is fundamentally wrong and on our insistence that something could be done, although he wasn’t sure what. We in Class War made it clear that both doors should be open to all residents. McWilliams was sceptical about this at first, worrying over who would pay the service charge for the concierge.
“Class War insisted he could surely work round this minor problem in the interests of equality. We agreed in return to hold a ceasefire while the other interested parties of the property held their discussion.
“In the event of Taylor McWilliams not gaining the support of these other interested parties and opening up both doors to all, then we will return.”
The Class War ceasefire begins officially after this Wednesday evening’s protest when a game of football – Christmas truce style – is played with the rich doors concierge and his staff outside the building.
The flats in 1 Commercial Street were built with two entrances. Those living in the poshest and most exclusive flats got to go in the front via the “rich doors” with a separate concierge service and separate lifts – totally segregated from those living in the social or so called affordable housing.
They have to use the “poor doors” next to the stinking bins in a narrow and unlit side street littered with broken bottles and syringes.
The use of social segregation or “class apartheid” is a growing phenomenon in developments agreed by London borough councils and local authorities around the UK.
Class War is the first group to seriously challenge this class apartheid.
It has set up a crowd funding site so supporters can help back its campaign: https://www.sponsume.com/project/class-wars-election-campaign-2015-because-all-other-candidates-are-scum
Notes to editors
For more information call 07762 753848.
For pictures of the next protest you are invited to send photographers to 1 Commercial Street at 5.45pm on Wednesday 26 November.