Life and resistance in Africa House

After the raid on Africa House on Tuesday morning, we spent a frenetic day helping the residents of the squat to get things back to what passes for normality before another cold night set in. Beg, borrow and steal blankets and tents to replace those robbed by the sheriff’s (i.e., mayor’s) men. Van runs with firewood and the all important stocks of tea and sugar. Meanwhile the residents were sorting through and cleaning up the aftermath. By nightfall everyone more or less had a warm dry place to sleep again. Though of course it wasn’t so easy to replace valued personal possessions, including mobile phones and money, stolen by the police or council (whose pockets have they ended up in?)

In one of the many ironies of the brutalist politics of Calais, some of the new blankets came from the stores of charities funded by the town hall that ordered the destruction. Give with one hand, take away with the other, all the time keeping the constant drip level of fear, insecurity, discomfort running. All this week No Borders activists have kept up morning watch with residents outside Africa House. We aren’t able to stop a full-on CRS raid, but we can do what we can to get in the way, and we can let both our friends in the house and the forces of darkness know that we’re here standing firm.

The last three mornings police have circled, observed, with vans of CRS or PAF sometimes pulling up to the entrance of Africa House in a show of intimidation. This morning the CRS again displayed their new (for them — CRS are quite slow on the uptake) intimidation tactic of filming activists (watching us watching you …) But no more raids so far this week. Instead the Pashtuns got a visit on thursday morning with over 30 arrests. The Hazaras have also been on the receiving end.

“Music is medicine” one friend told a No Borders activist the other day. Firewood, blankets, water, tea and sugar are the necessities of life here. The English classes are also continuing daily, with up to 30 students joining in, and today we will also run a first aid class for the first time. But there is maybe nothing like the power of sound to lift the spirits. Last night we took a stereo, some CDs and a big tub of fruit punch (non-alcoholic, of course) to Africa House, and all made the most of a rare few hours to dance, smile and let go of our cares for a while. Reggae is definitely the music of choice in Africa House, with the Bob Marley CD getting repeat rewinds. Lions of Judah — Defend Africa House! Fuck the police!