“Never two without three! Having surrounded the migrants during the evacuation of the jungle and attempted a coup before the sub-prefecture of Calais, last Friday, no border activists were expected to turn.”
(The above translated from original French article –>here<–)
Still in Calais. Lots happening here. Three days ago (was it only that long ago?!) we went to do an occupation/demo at the Sous Prefecture here in Calais. I don´t really understand the French beauraucratic system (do I understand any beauraucratic system?), but they are basically the highest local level of state decision making responsible for the clearance of the Jungle. They got their orders from higher up, they passed them on down the line and lo and behold, three hundred Pashtun men and children are homeless overnight, sleeping wherever they can find a spot on the streets of Calais.
We walked into the building and unfurled banners, one reading “Human Rights Have No Borders” and two that were made by the Pashtun boys when their home was being bulldozed. A man came out to see us and asked us to leave. We began negotiating with him, saying we wanted to speak tthe Sous-Prefecture in person and get a response to our questions about the destruction of the other camps. We decided to stay until we got either a written or personal response, but the police (Police Nationale this time, not our usual friends the CRS) had other ideas, turning up suddenly and pushing us out of the door forcefully. Not to be defeated we got our banners out again on the road outside and sat down with them. The press turned up and we did an interview. A video in French is available –>here<–
After some minutes, the police arbitrarily decided it was time for us to leave, but rather than telling us this they picked us up one at a time and put us in a police van without even a word. Perhaps my invisibility cloak was working as I somehow got left sitting on the pavement, even after the others were all in the vans. I got up to retrieve PP_´s shoe, which had come off as he was pushed quite violently into the van, his wrist twisted in the process. I gave it back to him and then stood back a bit, wondering whether to walk off. Only then did a cop think to come and get me. He told me to get in the van. At this point I had a choice: either run, sit back down or get in the van with my friends – which is what I did as I felt quite vulnerable outside on my own. This is why on the video you can see me just walking into the van. (I got laughed at for this later!)
Back at the police-station we had the surreal experience of being led into the backyard and lined up against a wall, while a lot of riot cops stood around with their arms folded or hands on hips staring at us in silence. It looked like we were being lined up to be shot and it would have been scary were it not so funny. We couldn´t stop giggling, which of course the police didn´t like at all. They made us empty our bags and pockets, then took our passports, took us one at a time into a room where they asked our address and proffession then let us go. Outside we saw no reason not to get our banner out again. A journalist turned up and attempted to interview us, which was tricky as the police were pushing us along from behind, particularly the man speaking to the interviewer. Freedom of press? Not in France!
There are a lot more activists in Calais than the last time I was here. This has meant a change in the way we do patrols and people have been able to spend more time in particular migrant camps, getting close to individuals and making friends. A group of political Iranians have become particularly good friends with many of us. After the Sous Prefecture demo, people began saying it would have been nice if we had invited them to take part. We heard about a commemoration that was to happen on the Sunday – celebrating the liberation of Calais from Nazism and Fascism. Nazism maybe, but with what we are witnessing daily, how can it be free from Fascism? We told some of our migrant friends about the commemoration and many of them decided to join us in an action, which we planned together in a joint meeting.
We stood respectfully in silence while the ceremony took place, then made to move forward to the front where we would unfurl our banner and whip out the t-shirts we had made earlier that day under the bridge where the Iranians sleep. Unfortunately the police had already seen us and blocked us from moving forward. What followed was basically a giant tug-of-war with the banner between police and No Borders activists, including Iranian, Sudanese, Afghan and white protesters, all of us chanting “No borders, no nations”, standing together in solidarity and marching forward together whenever we managed to get the banner from the cops.
The tug-of-war began again and we saw that our moment of victory was past and it was a good time to stop. We told the police, “Weŕe finished. It´s over.” Eventually they believed us and let go, and we put the banner away in a bag, heading off to the park for a picnic on the world map – a giant map on the ground in the middle of the park. The police followed us for a while, creeping after us in their cars, but eventually they lost interest.
The commemoration demo was probably one of the most empowering I have been on. It was an experience of true solidarity to stand with my migrant friends, hold their hands and hang onto a banner we had made together while the police tried to rip it away. Something is growing in Calais. They are clearing the Jungles fast, but they can´t stop people coming and they can´t stop the momentum that is gathering, born of a desperate situation and people who are prepared to act in defense of freedom.