Montpellier: eviction of the Bouisson-Bertrand squat, eviction of shame

The police evicted the Bouisson-Bertrand squat, located rue de la Croix-Verte in the Euromédecine district of Montpellier, on the morning of Monday August 31st. The squat had been hosting up to 200 refugees and asylum seekers for more than a year and a half. Dozens of migrants and activists gathered in front of the Prefecture to ask for emergency re-housing solutions, in vain. The founder of the association Solidarité Partagée, which managed the squat, was arrested this morning and placed in police custody following this sit-in, which lasted all night long.

One of the biggest squats in Montpellier, for several months under threat of eviction.

The association Solidarité Partagée was created three years ago by Samuel Forest, President, and Lilian Moutonnet, Secretary General. It first occupied the site of the Château de Leyris, near the Saint-Roch train station, for nine months. But faced with unsatisfactory sanitary conditions and the threat of eviction, the association moved in January 2019 to a building belonging to the Bouisson-Bertrand foundation, located in rue de la Croix-Verte.

In addition to providing emergency accommodation for asylum seekers, the association welcomes all those in need of housing, and offers support in the maze of administrative procedures for access to common law, and follow-up in medical procedures. The premises have a one-hectare vegetable garden, cultivated by the residents, a gym, and offer courses in French as a foreign language. The squat is occasionally supplied by volunteers and associations, and acts in conjunction with institutions, in particular the Prefecture, in its support of migrants.

The first eviction alerts came at the beginning of July. Police officers came to warn founder Samuel Forest of the imminence of an eviction. In addition, a meeting of activist groups and squats was held with the sub-prefect of the Hérault region, who warned of the priority given by the public authorities to the eviction of the Bouisson-Bertrand squat. However, it was the CSA Bonnard who had in the meantime suffered his eviction. Faced with this threat, a camp was set up on the roof of the building to prevent any police intervention, and maintained throughout the summer. Last week, a meeting with the first deputy of the town hall did not result in any pledge, and the proposal of a second meeting. The town hall was therefore aware of the imminence of an eviction.

200 people on the street

There has been some slackness in the strategy chosen to prevent the eviction these last days. Did the police take the opportunity to intervene last Monday? In spite of the search for new places upstream and requests for relocation or accommodation that were not successful, more than 200 people had to leave the Bouisson-Bertrand squat, 90 of whom were directly evicted by the police. Solidarité Partagée has lost contact with many of them, who find themselves in an extremely precarious situation.

At 10:00 am on Monday, August 31, the police arrived in large numbers on rue de la Croix-Verte and forced their way into the building and proceeded with the eviction. The CRS broke down the doors of the residents’ rooms and initially evicted them from the building without their belongings. The refugees were divided into several groups, one of which was pushed into the adjoining 2×2 lane. Some asylum seekers were able to recover some of their belongings after a long wait, while others had already left the building, fearing they would be arrested and detained. Ten people were indeed “taken in charge” by the border police. The premises then began to be condemned.

In a press release, the Prefecture once again justified the eviction by the “unworthy sanitary and social conditions” of this occupation, and by the upcoming construction of a place “for the accommodation of the families with sick members, and for day hospitalization”. It is certain that putting 200 people on the street when the department has just passed into the Covid red zone, shows a sincere interest in the health and social conditions of the migrants’ existence in Montpellier. Thank you therefore to the prefect Jacques Witkowski for once again testifying to his humanist convictions.

One protest sit-in and two arrests

Faced with this eviction and the putting of so many people on the streets, militant groups have mobilized to protest and accompany migrants who find themselves in difficulty. Members of Solidarité Partagée, Barricade, Nous Sommes, Spada, Cimade, the League of Human Rights, and the collective Migrant-es Bienvenue, gathered under the windows of the Prefecture to demand emergency accommodation. LFI Deputy Muriel Ressiguier managed to get an appointment with the prefectoral services, accompanied by the president of Solidarité Partagée Samuel Forest. This meeting led to nothing except the handing of numbers for emergency accommodation, whose services are saturated in Montpellier. No proposal for re-housing was made.

In response, the activists, accompanied by 49 migrants, held their sit-in in front of the Prefecture all night long, helped by the Samu Social who came to distribute blankets. Police officers came to exchange during the night and asked the group to leave, which they refused to do.

The next morning, the police arrived in large numbers to remove the sit-in. It was at this point that Samuel Forest’s muscular arrest occurred, as well as that of a migrant. For the moment, we do not know the reasons given by the police to hold him in custody. His lawyer believes that the president of Solidarity Shared could be released tomorrow morning. All those present had their identities checked.

Rally of support this Tuesday, September 1st at 6 pm, in front of the Prefecture.

Following this dislocation, the asylum seekers and activists gathered at the SPADA, Henri Krasucki Square, where all the deportees registered on a list of requests for extreme emergency accommodation. The SPADA ensured that they did their utmost to establish priority criteria for their rapid re-housing. A few volunteers from Secours Populaire came to participate in providing food for those present.

Solidarité Partagée, accompanied in particular by the League of Human Rights, contacted the town hall in order to obtain a decent place to stay, such as a gym, to avoid that all these people spend another night on the street. A second appointment was requested at the Prefecture today, a support gathering will take place at 6 pm on the Place des Martyrs de la Résistance.

September 1st 2020, new rally to demand re-housing after the eviction of the Bouisson-Bertrand squat

About twenty people gathered in front of the prefecture of Montpellier this Tuesday evening following the eviction, the day before, of the Bouisson-Bertrand squat in the Euromédecine sector. No solution of re-housing has been proposed by the authorities since the eviction of the building. Two banners were hung on the prefecture’s gates, with the inscriptions: “the prefect is throwing hundreds of asylum seekers out into the street” and “eviction of shame”. A few minutes later, policemen from the departmental intervention company positioned behind the Flower Market square passed through the prefecture’s fence to come and tear down the banners under the booing of those present. The rally ended peacefully, with the presence of deputy Muriel Ressiguier (La France Insoumise), who came to support the initiative.

Another important point of this day: the founder of the association Solidarité Partagée in charge of the management of the squat, was placed in custody, then released, following the “occupation” of the Place des Martyrs de la Résistance during the night Monday to Tuesday, an action carried out in the context of the protest against the eviction of the building.

Squat Bouisson-Bertrand
778 rue de la Croix Verte, Euromédecine
34090 Montpellier

Some squats in Montpellier
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Some groups in Montpellier
Events in Montpellier

Refugees related groups in France
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