This afternoon a banner reading “Solidarite avec les sans papiers” was hung from the scaffolding on the town hall in Calais. While the local council tries to clean up its municipal image, they cannot hide the dire situation being faced by hundreds of migrants on the streets of the town.
Not carrying their identity documents in solidarity with the migrants they been working with these last few days, the three people arrested are currently being held inside the police station for an ID check and questioning. After chatting with people at the evening’s food distribution, and waiting for the banner hangars to be released, various of us hung out at the BCMO cold weather shelter. A Belle Etoile (food distribution association) volunteer there reckoned there are about 80 to 100 people sheltering in the BCMO, a gymnasium only opened by the authorities when the temperature goes below -5°C. It is likely to shut again in the next few days, forcing more people back onto the streets with no shelter from the weather or police violence.
People were friendly and chatty as ever, but some people looked very weary. We saw two serious leg injuries with legs in velcro casts. We gave basic first aid for cuts and bruises – police and football related injuries.
With a few more of us on the ground in Calais we were more effective at helping to defend the large Africa House squat, which has been consistently attacked by the police over the last week. The main building is a large warehouse with lots of small open fires inside. The floor of this warehouse has many gaps where people climb in to sleep at night, looking for shelter from the cold. The police have thrown their gas into these holes to gas people out on raids. A smaller building is attached where people sleep huddled in windowless rooms open to the cold gale blowing last night. In early evening, after dark, we spotted two CRS (riot police) vans speed past us and followed them to the entrance road that leads to the Africa House squat. 6 of us jumped out of our van, which drove on with full headlights right on top of the police, who looked visibly shaken at our sudden and numerous arrival. 2 or 3 guys were arrested and both CRS vans quickly sped off, followed by us as far as an edge of town roundabout where one van played ” point turn manouevres with us as the van with the arrested migrants went on to Coquelles police/detention centre. Hopefully they will be released in 24-48 hours.
The area around Africa House was then patrolled by us in vehicles and on foot, front and back, with either us tailing CRS vans, or them following us at painstakingly slow speed down the narrow side streets. A van load of CRS on us is better than a van load hassling migrants. One of our vehicles blocked access to the entrance road to Africa House for quite some time, until eventually police hassled them to move on. With activists sleeping in the squat and continuing to patrol the nearby area all night no further police actions were seen. With the CRS seen studying maps in their van just before trying it on at Africa House it is likely they wanted to do some head counts and arrests inside the squat, which didn’t happen.