During the night of 18th-19th May the CRS raided the Palestinian squat. They destroyed everything they could get their hands on, stole their tea and sugar, threw someone’s Qur’an across the room, poured all their water away and pulled a giant metal shelving unit full of dusty, dirty broken scrap on top of the Palestinians’ bedding. The shelves were so big and heavy that they couldn’t be moved until five CMS activists came to visit the next morning and helped the Palestinians to lift it.
At about 22.10 on 19th May two French guys showed up at Africa House in a black sports car, registration number AE-152-TE. They weren’t wearing police uniforms and from their behaviour the Sudanese and No Borders outside the compound mostly assumed they were just two drunk locals. They got out of their car and approached a group of four people hanging around in the car park. To one guy they said “we are police, and you are black”, and searched him very aggressively. Then they pushed him around a little bit and punched him a couple of times, but they weren’t looking to make arrests so they jumped back in their car and headed for the exit of the car park. On their way out they ran into two Sudanese coming back from the shops with two bottles of wine in a plastic bag. According to them, the two guys jumped out of their car, flashed some police ID and their guns, and proceded to search the two migrants very aggressively, pushing them against the car and deliberately smashing one of the wine bottles on the ground. Two returning No Borders activists saw one of the migrants picking up the bottle that didn’t smash, and looking quizzically at the cop. The cop responded that they shouldn’t be drinking, because they were in France, and then both cops left quickly in their car. Obviously their advice does not apply to drunk off-duty white policemen.
After a short break the CRS have now resumed regular raids at Africa House. The CMS tactic of keeping watch and an early warning system is still effective at preventing arrests and violence. On the morning of 20th May they raided the compound at about 8.00 and took 24 people, including several migrants with papers, a homeless European guy and a No Borders activist, who had been peacefully sitting on the wall when the CRS arrived and was later picked up patrolling inside the compound watching out for violence, vandalism and other violations. One migrant was kicked for no reason by one of the thugs in uniform, and once again the cops were seen walking on the prayer space, despite new signs put up by CMS and the Sudanese asking them in French not to do so. When one of these signs was pointed out by a migrant, the police read it and had a good laugh.
In the detention centre at Coquelles the detained activist noticed that some of the people with papers were being handed prefabricated interview transcripts written only in French, and were being told “sign this, and you’re free.” At this point the activist intervened and advised people not to sign anything until it had been explained to them in an appropriate language. This infuriated the cops and the activist was separated from the group, but no-one signed anything and all were released. When the activist was taken to interview he was told that if he didn’t answer questions he could be ejected from France and could never come back. He consented to be interviewed but through a combination of poor translation and the activist being deliberately obtuse the interviewing officer started to get frustrated. When the activist started to explain the human rights abuses being carried out by the CRS the cop got very angry, started to argue and wouldn’t write down what the activist was saying, at one point telling him “I don’t care” about the deliberate violations of migrants’ religious practice by the CRS. During the argument the cop tried to terminate the interview but then the activist refused to sign the transcript on the grounds that it had been falsified and his real answers had not been recorded in full. This enraged the officer to such an extent that he threw the activist out of the detention centre out of sheer frustration.
Yesterday another CMS activist was in court at Boulogne-sur-Mer for not showing ID and not consenting to having her fingerprints taken by the police. Several of us showed our support by coming along. The lawyer argued that the CRS had given a false statement of the incident, and the case was thrown out on the basis that there were other ways of checking her ID other than taking fingerprints. We all had a much-needed cup of coffee and a cigarette to celebrate.
Finally, just a reminder that raids are ongoing and activists are still needed on the ground, so if you are interested in the issue please have a look at the ‘Coming to Calais’ section of this blog, and then show your support on the ground.