Two people facing charges of ‘degradation’ after squatting a kitchen in Calais previously used by Belle Etoile were acquitted this morning at the court of Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Belle Etoile, a local association serving lunch time meals for 10 years, decided to stop distributing food as of 28 Feb 2013 – refusing to continue to work as a prop for the authorities whilst conditions for people get worse.
So on March 1st, people occupied the empty building so that the space, as well as the remaining food, gas and equipment could be used by communities themselves autonomously.
But another local association Secours Catholic and the Bishop of Arras, who are responsible for the building, and filed a complaint against the occupants which resulted in a speedy and aggressive eviction on March 4th and arrest of everyone inside, including people with and without papers from Europe, Sudan and Afghanistan.
The complaint was supposedly against some damage of two screws in a door frame – however the result of the complaint involved cops smashing in the whole door. And the charge of ‘degradation’ then made against two of the occupants!
The prosecution near enough asked for the two to be acquitted, because of lack of evidence.
The complaint had been withdrawn before the trial, and Secours Catholic stood as witness conceding that the initial damage to the door was overestimated and the complaint had been made in haste with the feeling that it was manipulated by the police.
The complaint had also been against ‘illegal occupation’ – but the charge did not stick. Maybe at last the cops give up on the ‘illegal occupation’ charges, which *every time so far* people have won in the context of the brutal forced homeless of so many in Calais.
On Friday March 1st after Belle Etoile served their final meal the building which they had been using to prepare the food was occupied by No Borders and people from different communities. This was done in an effort to ensure that the cooking facilities that had been used for feeding Calais’ migrant population for many years would continue to be open and accessible to them in the future.
The intention was to open the space and allow the remaining food and gas inside to be distributed and used by the various communities to feed themselves rather than make this the responsibility of some charitable volunteers. The building would also serve as a social center, however, the Dioses of Arras and Secour Catholique were not as enthusiastic as others were with this idea and made a formal complaint to the police regarding the occupation, which resulted in a morning raid the following Monday that delegates of Secours Catholique were on hand to witness.
The CRS and PAF entered by force at 8:45 AM arresting the four occupants inside; taking two people (one Afghani and Sudanese) to Coquelle while taking the other two to the Hotel de Police. All four were released later that day with the two people taken to the polcie station being charged with ‘degradation’ and face court in May.
In the afternoon three vans of CRS Compagnie 53 were roaming the streets making many arrests in town. During an ID control of new arrivals from Northern Africa, including four women, CRS surrounded the group against a wall in the main street whilst making humiliating comments like ‘oh look they are cold’, also joking and laughing because they couldn’t understand French, before arresting them all.
Another new squat was closed last night.
This morning the police visited the squat of the Eritreans. There are 16 people living there. They told them to take their bags and stuff and leave and that the house would be closed soon. It is not evicted yet but we expect it will be tomorrow.
All the houses squatted the night before last were closed yesterday by the police but have been re-opened, but will again be closed soon as police are sitting in cars outside of them.
Any people who tried to enter the place of food distribution last night were pounced upon by police who waited in the car park opposite all night. Many people were unable to sleep last night and walked all night in the rain looking for somewhere they could stay.. We distributed all our tents yesterday – also Medicin du Monde gave everyone plastic and Salam distributed blankets again.
There are many people in detention in Coquelles, including one minor who the police refuse to believe is under 18. Yesterday 16 minors were arrested in the raid on the Afghans. There are four children under ten here at the moment.
The people detained have the usual complaints about Coquelles – poor conditions, bad food, racist and humiliating behaviour from the police – for example, the officers have been holding their noses when people walk past in the hallways, implying that people smell. Many people inside have no idea of their legal rights, although France Terre d’Asile work inside Coquelles many people we have been visiting and speaking with have never heard of them. The police are deliberately trying to stop communication between the different sections of the prison – people are rushed to the hall for eating and moved out again very quickly so as they do not talk to each other. The rooms are full – up to five people in each.
Many people inside were people arrested in the big raid on the place of food distribution – the police took their bags and are refusing to give them back to people now in detention – always saying “tomorrow, tomorrow..”
People are unable to change their clothes. One man doesn’t even have any shoes as he was refused by the police, when they arrested him, to retrieve them from his bag – so he was walked barefoot to the arrest van and into the police station..
With the constant heavy rain and crazy numbers of police on the street people don’t know what to do with themselves. Nowhere is safe, nowhere is dry and people are so tired.
Yesterday morning at 6am many many police – PAF and CRS – arrived at the place of food distribution and kicked everybody out in the rain. A lot of people were arrested, around 50 people, and everyone was not allowed to take their blankets or sleeping bags with them (which had just been distributed two days before by Medicin du Monde) though they were able to take some personal bags.
People were released throughout the day – though not everybody, some still remain in the detention centre.
After the food distrobution by Salam at 6pm more blankets were distributed. Many people from the associations gathered in the distribution place and it was decided together by many communities that they wanted to make a road block in protest to the eviction that morning.
It was very beautiful to see, maybe 100 people or less sat and stood in the road to the port and blocked traffic. Plastic sheeting was brought and people made makeshift tents over the road. Cardboard sheets were written on with slogans like “where are our human rights?” and “we are not criminals!”.
Chanting and singing and dancing made the atmosphere a bit like a surreal party. There were many police – Nationale, PAF, BAC – who stood and watched for a couple of hours at a distance, directing traffic. A huge storm came over the demonstrators with thunder and lighting and terrible rain – people held out in the road in the rain until it was totally dark before dispersing to find places to sleep.
This morning at 6.30am the police came again in HUGE numbers. PAF and CRS. They evicted the area outside of the food distribution and arrested everyone. They were not very violent but really unpleasant.. They woke people by cutting the tents from over their heads and stamping on the plastic, with people sleeping inside. It was very cold and the CRS found it amusing that so many people were shivering and wrapping themselves in blankets.
The translator they brought with them did not speak Pashto or Dari – only Arabic. 95% of the people arrested were Afghan and so the woman walking round screaming in Arabic that everybody must go to the police station to show their papers and could take there bags, was not understood.
In the police station people were divided into language groups, Pashto/Dari/Farsi/Arabic/Urdu and put into cells. The police were calling the porta-cabin where most of their cells are, “la maison Afghanistan”.
We are unsure at the moment how many people are left inside – but it seems most are released. The last person from “la maison Afghanistan” was released today but we are still not sure about the other police cells.
It seems somewhat like a bad joke here at the moment. With the constant rain and now what seems to be becoming an eviction trend the days are very long and uncomfortable. We desperately need more tents/sleeping bags/blankets/waterproof coats etc.