‘They started the violence’: Manchester homeless shelter evicted after High Court order

Homeless people living at ‘The Ark’ homeless camp under Mancunian Way on Oxford Road have been evicted today, following a possession order being confirmed by the High Court on Wednesday.

Private security and High Court bailiffs acting on behalf of Manchester Metropolitan University entered the camp around 7am this morning, along with police.

Eye witnesses reported that possessions were ‘thrown into skips’ and members of the community were ‘dragged out while they were half-asleep’.

Speaking after the eviction, Jennifer Wu, a humanitarian spokesperson for the shelter, believes that the council had failed in its duty of care towards Manchester’s homeless.

She told MM: “Everything that has happened has happened unlawfully. They are using force and abusing the legal system. You are meant to have notice but there was no notice given for the eviction.

“I was awoken by people unzipping the tent, saying we had 30 minutes to collect our things and get out. I said ‘you can’t do this’ and eventually I had four or five people forcibly dragging me out of the camp.

“I have a big gash across my back [from being dragged out] and when they put me down on the pavement I landed on my head.

“The police have let this violence happen, we were peacefully sleeping when they broke the peace. They started the violence and I’m now going to the hospital for my injuries.”

A video of The Ark eviction aftermath:

The camp, which was setup in August as a ‘self-serving community’ for Manchester’s homeless, has been involved in legal battle with Manchester City Council and Manchester Metropolitan University, with a possession order being granted by the High Court.

Ms. Wu added: “The camp is now completely destroyed and the area has been fenced off, none of this is legal, but they’re using force to enforce their own law.”

“The council have, now, finally started offering accommodation to the homeless, but only after the violence has happened.

“Housing officials had never been down to the camp until yesterday. This has only been allowed to happen because they have said they’ve been coming down regularly, which is a lie.

“This whole thing has been built on lies.”

The camp’s founder Ryan McPhee has insisted that the camp was not intended as protest, but as a way of providing shelter, food and accommodation for Manchester’s homeless.

A petition calling for Manchester’s ’emergency homeless shelter’ to be saved now has 3,000 signatures.

But in a statement issued today, Manchester Metropolitan University said:

“Since early August 2015, we have observed a group of protestors assembled on land under the Mancunian Way, adjacent to Oxford Road. This land is owned by Manchester City Council, and leased to the University on a long-term basis.

“Last week, the University (alongside the Council) sought and secured a Court Order confirming an unauthorised trespass, which enabled us to regain possession of this land.

“The ability to enforce that Court Order was confirmed in a thorough judgment in the appeal hearing on Wednesday 16th September.

“The High Court writ of possession was subsequently enforced this morning by High Court Bailiffs working with Greater Manchester Police, resulting in the removal of this group of protestors.

“We have been working with the Council and support agencies to understand the complex nature of this situation and the group, and have satisfied ourselves that our actions would not be detrimental to genuine causes and individual needs.

“Throughout this period, several members of the group have been aggressive and verbally abusive to University employees.

“The majority of the protestors who were removed this morning are not recognised as homeless individuals, either by the City Council or by Greater Manchester Police.

“Members of the City Council’s homelessness team were present this morning with the offer of accommodation and support to all protestors, an option taken up by five of the group.

“All members of the protest group were allowed adequate time to remove their personal possessions and larger items have been safely secured for retrieval within seven days. At no point were our security staff involved in any direct altercations with the group.

“As a University, we work through multiple established channels to support homeless people in Manchester and the causes that can precipitate this. We actively work in many local areas to help local people.

“Our academic research is influential in supporting changes to government policies for those in need and our overall mission is firmly aligned to helping all people, and in particular those who are vulnerable and need our support.

“Many members of University, students and staff, also contribute substantial amounts of private volunteering time, fundraising effort as well as donations to established charities that fight homelessness and support homeless people.

“We have much academic expertise to bring to the understanding of the issues and the development of solutions. As a University community we share compassion, engage positively, and provide support for those in need.“

Image courtesy of David Dixon, with thanks.

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