You've probably already heard that on Saturday night, a group of people decided to attack the Cereal Killer Cafe as — in their eyes — a symbol of gentrification. The cafe, which has attracted much opprobrium for charging up to a fiver for a bowl of cereal, was the target of a group carrying flaming torches who threw paint, scrawled 'scum' on the windows and terrified customers inside the cafe, who included children.
It's the handiwork of Fuck Parade, whose Facebook event page declares:
Stand up to gentrification! Our communities are being ripped apart — by Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs. Local authorities are coining it in, in a short-sighted race for cash by "regenerating" social housing.
We don't want luxury flats that no one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing. We don't want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns — we want community. Soon this city will be an unrecognisable, bland, yuppie infested wasteland with no room for normal (and not so normal) people like us.
Thing is, we agree with much of this, but trashing an independent business is the wrong target. If you really feel the need to protest — without, we stress, fire and masks and bottle-throwing and breaking anything; placards and a megaphone, or something creative along the UK Uncut lines please — here are some more worthy targets.
One Hyde Park
The 'buy to leave' phenomenon isn't as widespread as people often think, but if it's rich people using London as a playground you want to protest about, this development symbolises it all. Designed by Richard Rogers and built with money from the Candy brothers and a former prime minister of Qatar, a Vanity Fair article from 2013 showed it to be little more than an empty series of safety deposit boxes masquerading as eye-wateringly expensive apartments. Hardly anyone actually lives there. Let's tear it down and build social housing.
The Heygate Estate
We could have picked many of the developments happening to council estates all over London, but the Heygate in Elephant and Castle is one of the most notorious. Of the 1,200 social homes that once stood in this area, 630 will be built across the entire redevelopment. That's out of a total of 3,000 new homes that Lend Lease is developing. The cheapest flat in the West Grove building on the newly redubbed Elephant Park will set you back £542,000.
Angry about the lack of genuinely affordable housing at Mount Pleasant, Convoys Wharf or that planned for Bishopsgate Goodsyard? All those planning decisions were taken in Boris Johnson's office at City Hall, and he's come under attack for rolling over for developers. He argues that he'd rather have some homes built than none at all. Is he encouraging the social cleansing of the city? Your decision — but please make your points politely.
Department for Communities and Local Government
This government department covers housing. If you want to impress upon the powers-that-be how you feel about cutting money allocated for 'affordable' housebuilding — from over £8bn in 2008-2011, to £4.5bn for 2011-2015, to £3.3bn for 2015-2018 — or the cut in social rents which will mean housing associations build fewer low-cost homes, or the bizarre policy to bring housing associations into Right to Buy, the DCLG is based at 2 Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF. Alternatively, you can find the Treasury at 1 Horse Guards Road, SW1A 2HQ.
Capco / Network Rail
If you want to protect small, independent traders who have been serving their communities for years, you might want to cast a glance at Capco. Over at Earls Court, the development company has been buying up the freehold of shops and whacking up the rents. If the business doesn't want to pay, Capco is offering a lump sum for them to leave — but some owners have told Dave Hill the amounts are nowhere near enough.
There's a similar story going on in Brixton. Network Rail is refurbishing the arches along Atlantic Road and Brixton Station Road and existing businesses will have to vacate by early next year. Traders say that on return, their rents could increase by as much as 300% and, clearly, not all of them will be able to afford that — if, indeed, they've been able to keep their businesses going while off site. Network Rail says it wants a "good mix of businesses" in the arches after they've been done up; expect chains to muscle in alongside old shops and new start-ups.
Literally anywhere else
Getting pissed off by the Cereal Killer Cafe — or any of the shops around Brick Lane — is getting pissed off about a symptom of gentrification/social cleansing, not the cause. And, frankly, it's even getting pissed off about the wrong symptom. These are just some dudes who set up a business in a part of London that got colonised by hipsters over a decade ago. It's like getting annoyed by Nathan Barley. Go protest at Sweets Way, or Earls Court, or anywhere that real people are in danger of being swept out of right now. And if it's just hipsters that get your goat, try not to take along sound systems and "cheeky banner drops" or other accoutrements of middle class warehouse parties that make you look not that far away from the cereal topping sellers you're bitching about.