BATTLE OF THE BEARPIT

As the dust settles on the Reverend’s underwhelming and overpriced ‘BATTLE OF THE BEARPIT’ eviction assault on the city’s street homeless, People’s Republic of Stokes Croft and Bearpit Improvement Group stalwart, Chris “The Pot” Chalkley should allow himself a wry smile at the council’s thinking behind this latest turn of events. The Reverend Rees unleashed his PRIVATE STORMTROOPERS to clear the Bearpit of squatters and the homeless on 19 June after what he called “escalating public fears” following a low-key statement from the police that a man had suffered a minor facial injury in the Bearpit.

The Reverend’s assault led by ineffective community worker turned ‘Street Czar’ Kurt “Wendy” James appeared to be devised as a HIGH PROFILE MEDIA EVENT and troops were piled in ready for a headline-grabbing scrap with the squatters of the Bearpit. Although things didn’t go quite to plan when just one man was arrested for a non-violent offence while the rest just drifted away from the Bearpit with a “fuck you” to the Reverend’s para-military bailiff team. Within a few hours bailiffs were stood around with the press in the middle of, possibly, THE MOST EXPENSIVELY SECURED ROUNDABOUT IN HISTORY.

The Battle of the Bearpit took place after an eviction hearing at Bristol’s Court of Justice where the city council arrived with a swanky barrister on top-dollar who proceeded to fail to prove the council owned the Bearpit. The court, instead, had to make do with a statement from ‘Street Czar’ Wendy claiming the council did own it but just couldn’t prove it at the moment. The barrister also blustered to the court that there was “AN URGENT NEED FOR “REDEVELOPMENT AND REGENERATION” at the Bearpit.

Really? An urgent need to expensively redevelop and regenerate a concrete underpass beneath a roundabout? This is why Chris The Pot should be pissing himself laughing. When he announced ten years ago that he intended to turn this ABANDONED, UNLOVED and UNDERUSED underpass popular only with the street homeless into an important cultural quarter, vibrant public space and open-air art gallery there were gales of laughter. Followed by a shrug of the shoulders from anyone in authority who had spent years pursuing a policy of “TARGET HARDENING” and “DISSUASION OF USE” in what studies had discovered was THE MOST FEARED SPACE IN CENTRAL BRISTOL. Certainly, no mention then from snooty bastards about “an urgent need for redevelopment and regeneration”.

So what’s changed? When did the Bearpit become valuable real estate? Who changed it and how? And who gets to cash in?

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