Deporting, imprisoning, or otherwise ‘silencing’ activists that become too much of a nuisance is something we usually associate with despotic third world regimes, authoritarian emerging superpowers and paranoid one-party states, but it’s happening right here in the UK in 2015. When anyone falls victim to this abuse of state power it needs to be opposed by all those who want to carry on living in a democratic society; just the fact that these abuses are happening is worrying in itself, but when it happens to a friend it’s even more disturbing.
Hungarian-born 34-year-old Daniel Gardonyi has spent the last 4 years fighting austerity and social cleansing in London, successfully organising neighbourhoods in North and Central London and helping put on spectacular events to bring the community together. We worked together on many of these projects, and shared some of our finest moments and most difficult times.
He lives in perpetual protest on the Sweet’s Way Estate in Barnet, just one of many communities to fall victim to social cleansing in London. Now, after resisting the eviction of Mostofa, the last original resident on the estate, the Home Office has served Daniel a letter threatening deportation, despite having no criminal charges against him.
Daniel, Peter Phoenix and Mordecai planning an event at The Bohemia, a social center and entertainment venue in North Finchley.
Daniel is something of a local hero, well knit into the big woolly jumper of the Barnet community where he resides. We first met and briefly lived together in the aftermath of Occupy LSX, but it was in Barnet that we first seriously worked together, sleeping on the floor of a once-abandoned library by night, stocking shelves and stamping books by day.
The historic Friern Barnet library was shut down as part of the council’s austerity regime. The shelves lay bare, and the building was set to be flogged off to Tesco when a motley assortment of activists well versed in squatting law occupied the building. Danny was there almost from day one. Gradually, the local community, who had thought their beloved library gone for good, came to trust us, and every day they came for meetings, poetry readings, concerts and even a Q and A session with Will Self. Not to mention, lovely books.
After five months the council relented. They eventually revealed that they had ‘found’ the money from ‘somewhere’, and the library could officially reopen. Now, it’s run by a trust made up of locals, and it’s one of the most used libraries in the borough.
I credit Danny for a lot of the library’s success. It was impossible for the initially wary Barneteers not to warm to his relaxed and humorous manner, and without their energy, tenacity and committed involvement the shelves would now be stacked with Tesco bread, butter, and bacon, not books.
On the back of this success some of those living in the library formed a group that was at times variously known as Occupy Barnet, the Library Defenders, Barnet Bohemians and the Cat Hill Eco Warriors. Over the following years we would run community actions such as the ARC social centre, the hugely popular Our Bohemia, the Cat Hill Environmental protection camp in Enfield, the 12 Bar occupation in Soho, as well as an encamped protest outside the constituency office of Conservative MP Mike Freer.
And as the horrific knock-on effects of austerity became clear, Danny and the Barnet Bohemians would focus more and more on halting social cleansing in London.
Daniel has been protesting the social cleansing of London at Sweets Way since March. It’s just one of the many estate resistances that have happened across the city in recent years. Focus E15, Aylesbury Estate, Our West Hendon, New Era and the Guiness Trust Estate occupation, just to name a few, have all seen local residents and activists stand up against planned eviction.