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1969: Police storm squat in Piccadilly
Police have raided a mansion in Piccadilly and evicted squatters who have occupied the building for the last six days.

It took just three minutes for the police to storm the 100-room building. The first cordon of about 50 police officers had to cross a makeshift drawbridge through a ground-floor window to get in.

As they ran forward, they were bombarded by water-filled plastic balls, roof slates, stones, pieces of wood and iron bars thrown from the roof.

There was rubbish everywhere. People had written on the walls and things like that
Graham Harris, Under-Sheriff of London
A second wave of police followed on, while others climbed over the surrounding fences and walls using ladders.

The operation involved over 200 policemen - more than one for each of the squatters left in the building.

There was little resistance once the police were inside, and within a matter of minutes an officer signalled from the roof that all was under control.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said several weapons were found in the building, including lead piping and a petrol bomb. He added that there were no serious casualties.

The first civilian into the building was Graham Harris, the under-sheriff of London.

"The place was in a mess," he said. "There was rubbish everywhere. People had written on the walls and things like that."

The building at 144 Piccadilly, at Hyde Park Corner on the junction with Park Lane, was taken over six days ago by the so-called London Street Commune, who broke in in the middle of the night.

It is thought that up to 500 homeless people came to live inside the house during the week, although most had gone before today's raid.

A spokesman for the Commune, calling himself "Dr John", said the squatters were attempting to establish a home for many of London's homeless families.

Negotiations have been going on all week to allow the Commune to use part of the building to carry out their plans to help the homeless, in return for their peaceful departure.

But after the squatters ignored a High Court order issued four days ago ordering them to get out, the police were brought in to evict them by force.

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144 Piccadilly
The house at 144 Piccadilly has been occupied by squatters for the last six days

In Context
Many of the squatters moved straight to another squat in Endell Street, also in central London, but that too was evicted after only a couple of days.

The squat in 144 Piccadilly was part of an idealistic movement in response to the growing concern over homelessness.

The movement began in 1968, and sought to use the peculiarity of English law which allows people to squat in disused buildings to provide desperately-needed housing for homeless families.

It is now thought that the ideals with which the squat in 144 Piccadilly was founded evaporated as the house was taken over by drug-dealers and Hell's Angels.

Similar problems were encountered by other squats in central London at the time.

The eviction from 144 Piccadilly was a turning point, and marked the end of the radical squatting movement.

However, the movement did give rise to a series of licensed squatting organisations which acquired empty houses and used them for homeless families. Some of these still operate today.

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