November 10, 2015 news
The situation is coming to a boil in Calais. For three weeks now, the French state has been waging an escalated campaign of repression in a vain pretence of cutting migrant numbers to its target of 2000. What this means in practice is riot cop patrols and tear gas attacks in the jungle, beatings at the fences and in town, and mass arrests of up to 50 people per day, snatched when trying to cross at the tunnel or just going to the chip shop. Until 2 nights ago, the thousands of people gathered in the “Jungle” camp seemed to be suffering this treatment without retaliation.
Things were different on Sunday night (8 November). A large crowd occupied the motorway next to the jungle in protest, cutting fences and making burning barricades. When riot cops attacked to clear them, the people fought back with stones. The local media report that 16 cops were injured in the fighting. They don’t report how many actual people were hurt, but the police claim that they fired 300 tear gas rounds. Below we repost a report and video from Calais Migrant Solidarity on the night’s events.
There were clashes again last night (9 November). The Calais Migrant Solidarity twitter feed mentions: “reports of barricades and “so much tear gas” including areas not previously attacked” around midnight; by 2am “clashes are still on going on the Chemin Des Dunes side of the jungle. very heavy police presence and gas #ACAB“; by 3 am “Mostly quietened down now. Lots of HGV traffic rerouted through town. Lots of barricades n fire evidence on Route des Gravelines”.
Aside from confrontations at the highway, the looming flashpoint for the jungle will be the state’s attempt to evict around 400 people from one area. This is in order to make way for the first phase of the planned fenced-off official concentration camp. Some residents have issued a statement of resistance. The state authorities, and their charity partner La Vie Active, have announced a delay due to “communication difficulties”. People have been told that they have until the end of this week to leave voluntarily, or CRS robocops will do the job by force. That would be the first forceful eviction inside the “tolerated zone”.
Will it all go smoothly for the forces of order?
On the night of the 8th of November, some of the people living in the jungle managed to block the highway that runs alongside the jungle. Multiple lorries could be heard sounding their horns, however by around 11pm, the police had completely stopped all trafic.
Despite this, large groups of people continued to move towards the front entrance of the jungle. This continued to happen even when it was plainly obvious that there was no UK bound traffic on the highway.
By midnight, as well as people on the highway, large crowds had gathered underneath the highway bridge, at the entrance to the jungle, and on both ramps leading on and off the motorway. Cries and chants of « No Jungle ! » could be heard. A group of people used stones to beat out a rhythm on the guard rail of the highway off-ramp. Several road signs were beaten off their posts, starting with the Calais sign. People began to make fires, out of broken tents and discarded items of clothing and anything else that they could get hold of. Many of the bushes and vegetation on the side of the highway were set alight. Some people took construction tools to the fences blocking off parts of the motorway, cutting holes in places. Burning material was pushed together to form barricades. Large groups of people made continual attempts to access the highway and were repeatedly driven back by the heavy use of tear gas. The people taking part in this were from many different countries and parts of the jungle. Many people from the communities filmed and made video on their phones.
A spokesman from the police trade union said that « almost 300 » gas grenade rounds had been fired. Gas was fired at first at the entrance of the jungle where people were gathering and onto the highway, but as the night continued police fired increasing amounts of gas deep into the jungle.
Although it was rendered less directly effective and powerful by the high wind speed, this did spread it around further. Once again, the Eritrean and Ethiopian section of the camp was heavily hit, being blanketed with gas several times. Gas grenades were also fired into some Afghan sections of the jungle far from any people who were protesting. The level of tear gas used was unprecedented. Hundreds of people were driven out of their homes and living spaces by this indiscriminate use of chemical weaponry. The media coverage, almost unanimously quoting police trade union spokesmen, speak of 16 injured police officers. Nobody knows how many people who live in the jungle last night was injured, because nobody is counting. Nobody pays any attention to the fact that CS gas and pepper spray can cause miscarriage in pregnant weapon. Activists from CMS gave out remedies to lessen the affects of the gas, but there was not nearly enough. A heavy toll of respiratory problems, skin and eye irritation and psychological trauma was exacted that night. Once again the police attacked indiscriminately, harming thousands of people, most of whom only wanted to stay in their shelters, all of whom came to Europe seeking sanctuary. In Calais they find the opposite.