More harassment, violence and arrests at Africa House

Last night CRS compagnie 5 tried out a new tactic. Two cop vans and an arrest bus turned up at Africa House and activists warned the residents to prepare for a raid. The cops all piled out of their vans and were almost certainly about to come into Africa House but when we raised the alarm and made our presence known they backed off, got back in and drove away. Over the next few hours they came back five times, flicking their lights on and off, driving up very aggressively and then driving away, coming back with more vans, parking round the corner to arrest anyone who ventured out…

They eventually disappeared when their shift ended at 1.00 but had succeeded in tiring everyone out. Compagnie 5 came back with two vans and an arrest bus at 7.30am. Some activists were already on the scene and gave the Africans plenty of warning of the impending raid. This time the police were less hesitant. The palette by the wall had been hidden so they had some trouble getting into the house, but once they were in they rounded up everyone left in the main warehouse and started pouring the migrants’ water all over their bedding. Two of them broke a tent with their batons and then started stamping on it – with someone still inside. One or two other tents and some cooking utensils were also broken. Three activists were inside the warehouse space and witnessed all of this, but were quickly escorted into the courtyard. The two males were searched, one of them so roughly that the cops ripped a big hole in his jacket. The activists were lined-up with around 16-19 arrested Africans and were filmed by one of the CRS on his iPhone.

Eventually the CRS brought a female PAF officer to search the female activist on the scene. The activist in question was taken some distance away and surrounded by about ten CRS officers. She noticed the one who was filming on his phone, which she considered intrusive. She made an attempt to stop him filming by putting her hands in the way, but he kicked her in the legs and scuttled out of the gate. The activist was slammed against the wall by police, and decided to sit down on a window frame. The cop who had been filming came back to try again so she reached out as if to grab his phone. He aimed a kick at her stomach so she grabbed his foot in self defence, nearly toppling him. Then one of his mates grabbed her by the throat and pushed her back, then jabbed her in the throat with his baton, which could easily have collapsed her windpipe had the blow fallen differently. As the activist struggled to catch her breath the cops surrounding her just laughed and imitated, and kept playing back the video, which was obviously hilarious.

Almost all of the arrested Africans had papers, and by the time we left Africa House two hours later 11 had already returned. Two others had to be treated for minor injuries sustained whilst running away from the police, and a tent has been donated to Africa House as a replacement for the one that was really unsalvageable.