The national Boats Are Homes; demonstration on Saturday 8th April 2017 was organised in defence of the boat dweller community in face of Canal and River Trust (CRT) threatening or actually evicting boat dwellers for their distance or pattern of movement.
Saturday’s march had a strong and diverse turnout of 150- 200 boat dwellers including families, couples, individual boaters and their drums, chants, whistles and loud-halers from all over the waterways. The demonstration was lively and angry with a strong sense of solidarity and feeling like we can make a change.
We handed in the petition against CRT’s intensified enforcement to Number 10, Downing Street. Nearly 35,000 signed the petition. We then marched on further to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to hand in a letter demanding that the Government takes responsibility in stopping CRT enacting what we believe is an unlawful CRT enforcement policy. People spoke from different parts of the waterways, and we were unified not only by a sense of countrywide boat dweller community, but also by the general threat to rid the waterways of boat dwellers. Oxford boat dwellers spoke about their successful campaign to stop the Council’s plan to effectively make our way of life a criminal offence in Oxford. The demonstration was mainly focused on the CRT actions to threaten or actually evict boat dwellers from their CRT managed waterways. One of the most virulent campaigns against the intensification of the CRT enforcement policy is the easing off of the effects on boat families and to allow their children equal access to school. This is a key reason why so many boat dweller families came to the demonstration.
Many believe that the heightened enforcement from CRT has a direct correlation with CRT’s continuing gentrification and privatisation of the waterways.
The coming together of boat dwellers from all over the country for a common purpose gave confidence and enthusiasm to many of the people attending to take further actions in defence of our community.