Across the street from Buckingham Palace, a rather unusual embassy has been established through less than official and legal means. Dubbed by its occupants as ‘the Rogue Embassy’, the seven-storey property on the very fashionable Grosvenor Gardens. has been taken over by a band of squatters as an act of political activism.
Hanging numerous banners from the windows of their new “embassy”, the occupiers have since gotten cosy and show no signs of wanting to leave the site, despite concerns raised by the property’s legitimate owners and their neighbours.
While in residence, they have claimed the building will be used as an unofficial embassy that acts on behalf of indigenous peoples and unrecognised countries. They claim to be part of the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians.
The building is not the first that the activists have seized, either. They had only just been evicted from a multi-million property on Eaton Square, and have occupied three buildings in total over the past year. Eviction efforts were expected to have started on Friday, after which the occupiers will be turned back out onto the streets. The property had been derelict and abandoned for years before the Autonomous Nation took over.
The building’s owner, Mr Bahraini Abdulrahman Aljasmi, has claimed that the current occupiers pose a grave risk to the security of Buckingham Palace nearby, as access to the roof allows people to look out onto the palace grounds. Snipers are reportedly monitoring the situation from the nearby Wellington Barracks, although the activists claim they have no intention of causing trouble and the matter appears to be proceeding peacefully.
The legality of squatting in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own laws) depends entirely on the nature of the building being claimed. Non-residential properties, such as offices or factory buildings, are actually not illegal — although not necessarily strictly legal either– for squatters to occupy, though they cannot damage the property, use utilities without permission, steal from the rightful owners, and must leave if told to by a court. Residential buildings, however, cannot be occupied without permission from the owner. Should the court hold that the building they currently inhabit is a residential property, they could face a punishment of five years in prison, a £5000 ($6230) fine, or both.
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace has refused to comment on the matter, stating merely that security “is a matter for the police”.