Calais: Recent police attacks on distributions

In the last weeks the police have started to include attacks on support infrastructure in their campaign of violence and intimidation against people on the move in this city. Volunteers and supporters in Calais have been reporting police attacks during food distributions, traffic stops and fines when going out in association vehicles to do distributions, threats to seize vehicles, poisoning of water supplies, and the destruction of donations. This is in addition to the police violence which takes place daily in the jungles, at the parkings, and in the streets for which volunteers are not often present.

Image: Water containers contaminated with CS gas

These incidents are part of a larger strategy aimed at eliminating solidarity towards people on the move from the streets of Calais. Ever since the explosion of support which helped construct the Jungle in 2015 the local government has targeted the groups and individuals trying to offer resources to undocumented people in Calais. After the evictions of the Jungle, the local government attempted to ban the distribution of food in Calais as well as people gathering in public space, a ban which was overturned by a court in Lille and is currently being appealed by the government, and by arresting anyone who attempts to protest the violence of the border (see post from June 26th). However, despite this ban the associations have continued cooking and distributing food throughout this time. Now, it seems like a decision has been taken to use the police in an extralegal way to disrupt the distributions in the hopes of discouraging the associations and make people too afraid to attend.

For years the state’s strategy has been to make life as hard as possible for people on the move in Calais with the hopes that they will give up and leave. Providing practical and material support to those on the move as well as speaking out against the state’s program of violence and intimidation is part of the struggle against the government’s desire to eliminate migrants and refugees from Calais’ streets. Defending the spaces where meaningful solidarity and support can exist in the city for those on the move is one part of challenging the border.

One way to challenge the violence of the police is to try to intervene. An easy way to do this is to film the police. Though it may seem to have a limited effect, continually exposing the violence of the police to public scrutiny can help challenge their impunity. As well as filming the police, it is also worth collecting other information about them; for example the officer’s numbers, the number of the CRS company involved, and testimonies from witnesses. Of course the police will try to hide their identities (in the recent weeks CRS have been hiding the registrations of their vans with black tape), but this can also be documented as used against them.

As migrants experience these violations on a daily basis there is especially a need for volunteers and activists to stay with them after the food distribution vans have left, because this is the time which the police attack the most. In the mornings people who stay in the jungle are woken up with tear gas and in the nights they are chased and beaten with batons.

The Cabane Juridique can help with legal assistance for making complaints against the police (legalshelterviolences [at] gmx [dot] com)

Even though resisting police violence and the state’s attacks on solidarity may seem difficult, it is only through struggling together to defend the spaces and structures of support that the idea of a society based on openness, not borders, can remain.

A brief and incomplete time-line of police attacks on supporters:

Thursday, July 13
– A distribution van was gassed by police at the evening food distribution.

Saturday, July 15
– The morning distribution was hindered by police, and the CRS threatened to confiscate vehicles.

– In the evening, the police attacked and sprayed gas at the evening distribution at Verrotières.

– In the night, again at rue des Verrotières, a distribution vehicle with its rear doors open was gassed, along with the food that was inside. Many volunteers were also teargassed.

Sunday, July 16
– In the morning, at the Auchan Drive breakfast distibution, exiles and volunteers were gassed massively, food also. Some CRS policemen destroyed bags of pastries and bread by trampling them, and tried to confiscate the tea thermos flasks. The exiles dispersed, and the volunteers decided to move away, but to remain present in the field. They sat in a circle to picnic, sing songs and clap their hands, surrounded by police officers determined to force them to leave.

– This afternoon at 2.00pm, at the hospital distribution, again new police barriers.

Wednesday, July 19
– Police came at 9AM in the jungle at Verrotières to take people belongings; plastic, sleeping bags, tents, and anything with which they could shelter.

Tuesday, July 25
– The afternoon food distribution in the city center was disrupted by police. They were following the distribution van through the streets and once, stopped prevented food from being given out before everyone was fed. Afterwards seven people were arrested after refusing to show ID.

Tags: , ,