“The road from Paris to Calais, an absurd odyssey”
Saturday the 1st October, a convoy of 4 coaches left Paris, Porte de la Chapelle, to participate in the banned protest at Calais.
The abuses of power by French police and their cronies since the declaration of the state of emergency have become increasingly farcical as they become increasingly oppressive. Before even departing, the Prefecture of Police called the coach company the evening before and threatened them with legal action should they uphold the booking for the migrants and activists. The official line told to the police by those traveling was that we were instead traveling to the Jungle in order to meet the migrants and express solidarity, and to demand the Liberty of Circulation for all.
As we mounted onto the tollroad we were immediately pulled over by local Gendarmes who had been nominated to block our travel to Calais. State goons told us that the protest was banned and should the journey continue we could expect legal action. Of course we carried on our way. Not for long though as when we pulled over at a service station for a break, we were again greeted by ten Gendarmes. This time they stopped us leaving by carrying out a control (ID check) on the papers of our drivers. It was clear that their objective was simply to slow us down as much as possible and stop us from traveling, which considering that it is not (yet) a crime to take a coach, shows how desperate the French authorities are to make all solidarity with migrants impossible, whilst at the same time paying lip-service to the problem with the token gestures of building new welcome centres using prefabricated parts in abandoned industrial areas in the Paris suburbs (a nice way of getting the State to pay for local urban renovation?).
The Gendarmes continued to escort us up the tollroad, obviously put out by our determination they pulled us over a third time at the A26 autoroute, just outside Saint-Omer. There we were greeted by no less than 15 cars from the Gendarmes, as well as representatives from the Police Nationale. This time they decided to carry out an identity control on all 176 travelers, obviously trying to isolate and threaten those who do not have papers; luckily, everybody on the bus refused to give their identity cards.
The next tactic of the Gendarmes was to tell the drivers and coach company that they could face legal action such as fines and loss of license for…..“The Illegal Transport of Migrants”, a disgusting but unsurprising piece of legislation brought in be the vacuous hypocritical bastards who dictate what happens within the eepublican fiefdom. Whilst essentially kettled in a motorway lay-by, the Gendarmes told us we had 2 options:
1. Accept an identity check, then turn back to Paris with an escort.
2. If you want to continue to Calais we will do everything within our power to make sure you don’t arrive. Including arresting your drivers. They also threatened within this option to continue with a more rigorous identity check and only allow those with papers to continue on the road, those who did not would be retained.
Despite this, spirits remained high. Music was set up and a banner quickly created with the slogans
“Paris to Calais, Solidarity!” and “Freedom of Movement and Installation for everyone!” in several languages, which was followed by a demo around the car park. In the face of police ultimatums and the threat of detention for some of us, an assembly was held in which the decision was taken to return to Paris.
And the Gendarmes followed us almost all the way home, even trying to stop us when we pulled over at a motorway service station again. And essentially trying to guard us while we went to the toilet and had coffee.
The tactics used by the state, including manipulation of legal codes designed to isolate and further marginalise the oppressed, whilst reinforcing their own mainstream rhetoric which serves to portray migrants as parasitic predators are as deplorable as they are expected. At moments like these we must remember how borders exist to dehumanise us and break class solidarity, and that the state is but a tool for the powerful.
In the face of everyday repression we must remember;
NO ONE IS ILLEGAL! BORDERS ARE PRISONS!
The French State has been spreading word that it will evict the whole of the Calais Jungle, meaning the homes of 10,000 people, by “the end of October”. The latest rumour is that the attack will begin on 17 October and will feature a new weapon: blinding laser cannons developed for use against Somali pirates, now to be used for the first time against Africans and other migrants on European soil.**
Other talk is that the eviction will take just “three days”, and that not only the self-built jungle but also the official Jules Ferry day centre and maybe even the state-built Container Camp will go. Comrades from the ZAD (occupied zone of resistance to the airport project in Notre Dame des Landes) also believe that their own planned eviction may be delayed so that the state can first throw all its forces at Calais.
The charitable Associations, in a typical statement, have said that they will support the mass destruction, but ask for humanitarian assurances that displaced people will be given accommodation elsewhere in France, and that their breadwinner the Jules Ferry day centre can stay.
French riot police have been evicting camps in Calais, official and unofficial, at least since the closure of the Red Cross run Sangatte centre in 2002. That camp, like the Pashtun Jungle cleared in September 2009, housed somewhere under 2,000 people. Clearing the present jungle of 10,000 people is an operation of another scale altogether. Even with laser cannons, it’s hard to see how they could really manage it in three days.
Unless they first get the charities to persuade everyone to leave “voluntarily”. Or unless they are prepared to use violence on a new level, that is, to come in shooting to maim and kill.
The eviction of the southern half of the Jungle earlier this year took several weeks. And that time the state and its charity helpers had a simple ploy: they told people they would be safe if they moved into the container camp, or just a couple of hundred metres away onto the North Zone. A few hundred people still refused, and some occupied rooftops, fought back with whatever came to hand, or went on hunger strike. But the majority resignedly shuffled their belongings across.
This time it seems there will be no such option. The state says that it wants to offer places for all in “reception centres” across France. But currently it has nowhere near 10,000 such places, and no one knows how it plans to create them in a couple of weeks. Even supposing it does, many people are likely to refuse to get on a coach to some unannounced destination which might be a camp hundreds of miles away, or might be a detention prison waiting for a deportation flight. (Last week a leaked memo revealed that the EU is pushing a new mass deportation deal with Afghanistan, threatening to cut aid unless the Afghan government accepts 80,000 people flown back.)
So many doubts, many questions. But one thing for sure: once again, the big attack is coming. The latest blow on top of the every day misery, squalor, disease and continual police violence of the jungle.
We repost below a statement from the resistance at the ZAD, calling for active solidarity now with the Calais Jungle. Under the shadow of massive state attack, there is a glimmer of light here. The fact that the French state is unable to attack both camps at once reminds us that its force, however great, is not total. It is likely that CRS and Gendarmes Mobiles will be withdrawn from across France for the attack on Calais. This is just the moment for acts of solidarity and rebellion to spread across the country.
The ZAD call also highlights the company Vinci. This company is both the protagonist of the airport project there, and the state’s main corporate accomplice in the Calais evictions: workers from its subsidiary Sogea were the ones tearing down homes in the Jungle south zone as the gendarmes and CRS cleared the people. These are just two examples. Vinci is the go-to private sector partner of the French state whenever it needs a road or airport bulldozing through someone’s home or some remnant of forest. Vinci is also active internationally, including in the UK, where it also operates under the name Taylor Woodrow, and is one of the big construction firms known for blacklisting troublesome workers.
(** This story was reported in the latest edition of Le Canard Enchaîné, a bit like the French equivalent of UK’s Private Eye, which often has “scoops”.)
The word has come from certain medias that the government’s priority would not be to evict the zad in october, but to « evacuate the Calais jungle ». The police forces being unable to handle both operations at once. The movement against the airport and the world it stands for cannot remain silent in the face of this cynical game of leaving one eviction for later so that the other can be carried out.
We are calling out for solidarity and for the organization of actions now and for the coming weeks against the french state, Vinci, and the others that will take part in the eviction of the « jungle » in Calais and the ZAD of NDDL.. These two struggles are concrete fights against the racist and imperialist policies in europe, and the war it wages against « unwanted » people.
Last March, the people who had participated in a hunger strike in 2012 against the airport of Notre-Dame-des-Landes came to Calais to meet 9 refugees ready to die to stop the eviction of the south part of the « jungle ». These persons were on hungerstrike to protest against the order to evict more than 3000 people from the only home, shelter, wooden cabin, or tarpoline roof that they had. This destruction was carried out by SOGEA, sub-company of VINCI.
For the farmers the of Notre-Dame-des-Landes the destruction of what made their living amounted to question their way of life. In the « jungle » the houses, restaurants, grocery shops that have been built are steps to make life possible no matter what, while waiting « to be able to start really living ». If we must share solidarity with the those who live there, it is in part because their existence and perspectives are threatened by a society of control and a police state. But also because, like in the zad, the « jungle » has made it possible to have a space for organization, autonomy, encounters and solidarity. And like in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the state has little regards for individuals determined to put their own lives at stake.
Today, in October 2016, the state announces the eviction of what remains of the « jungle », 10 000 persons are threatened. The government would like to make believe that this eviction is a humanitarian operation, just like during the destruction of the south part of the slum last march. The hypocricy of
this speech is unacceptable in regards to the violence of the planned destruction of the homes of people, and the eagerness to control those in transit in Calais.
The « jungle » is part of a repressive construction created to hold off, to check, to control, and to deport the migrant population, reminding dark times in occidental history. Unseen and uncared for. Everyone where they « belong ». The stench of racism is disgusting. The rise of the racist and nationalist ideologies thoughout europe is no different to what we encounter in calais, and our solidarity must also include a struggle against the rise of a fascist society. The state is able to carry on its systematic repression of migrants in calais and elsewhere because of our implicit support, thanks to our silence.
What happens in Calais is not an isolated phenomenon, or an exception. The same logic spreads in france and in europe, made of repression and management of populations, of war against «unwanted» people, those who challenge the state by their way of life. We think that the management of the territory and its infrastructures is of the same nature as that of the control of populations. The organization of the repression, and the process of evictions and isolation of the « unwanted » will not defeat our drive to
chose, to make attempts, to build our own lives.
From Notre-Dame-des-Landes we reassert our determination to fight together against these common enemies.