Autonomous, self-organized demonstrations from the jungle
There have been several autonomous, self-organized protests by people in the jungle in recent months. Their main demands: open the border, stop deportations and a safe home for all (safe and humane living conditions).
Actions, like blocking the motorway:
Peaceful marches from the jungle to the centre of town, to put pressure on the French authorities and demand people’s rights:
These peaceful demonstrations were very successful at the beginning – on one occasion the mayor of Calais even went to meet the protesters in front of the town hall, an unprecedented move. However the protests were soon met with increasing repression.
Hundreds of refugees of all nationalities gather in front of the Town Hall. For some time there were gatherings like this every week, and up to three times per week.
The Syrians organized a number of protests of their own. On one occasion they wanted to spend the night in front of the Town Hall, but they were attacked by police and pushed back, in direction of the jungle. The drive is to keep people invisible and keep them segregated.
May be worth of notice that the self-organized peaceful protests, apart from steady support by few no borders activists, had little or no support from local association, anti-racists, international volunteers, for reasons I do not quite understand. May be an effect of the segregation? Many anti-racists refuse to accept the existence of the shantytown, and do not go there. Volunteers are more concerned with distributing humanitarian aid. Other reasons? Please feel free to comment.
For reports of the autonomous demonstrations, see https://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/
Demonstration in London 12t September
Tens of thousands gathered in Whitehall under the slogan ‘REFUGEES WELCOME‘. The newly elected Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, joined and did a speech.
Demonstration in Calais 12t September, to coincide with the one London
It was much smaller, just a few hundreds, but people took the centre of the town, despite efforts by riot police to stop the demonstration and push people back to the jungle . Two contingents of protesters joined, managed to break through, avoiding the police cordons, and ended up holding a sit in and rally in the middle of Calais’s main street for about two hours, with speeches, chanting, dancing. They stayed there until they decided to leave.
Report of the event by CMS (I re-publish in its entirety because it gives a very good description of what these self-orgnaized protests were like, and the increasing repression )
Today saw a demonstration in Calais, organized by people in the jungle. The protest was planned to coincide with the massive rally held in London, and to bring attention back to the refugees already in Calais while the UK decides to accept more from overseas. Today’s march adds to the almost daily protests by people in Calais in the last week.
Early this afternoon a group of three hundred left the jungle and began walking into town. They were demanding an end to being forced to live in the jungle, freedom of movement for everyone, and to open the border to the UK. Many others joined during the way or in the centre of town. The protest brought together people from all the different migrant communities in the city. As is past through the jungle, with people singing dancing, chanting, playing music and calling to others to join in, it felt as much like a party as a protest.
Calais’ mayor Natacha Bouchart, who yesterday put more pressure on the prefect to increase the policing of the recent wave of peaceful demonstrations, had fencing erected around the Mairie, and hired private security guards to stand behind it. Because of this, the demonstration, which in previous cases had rallied in front of the town hall, was this time stopped by the CRS just before getting there. The result was a stand off between protesters and police that saw the police use CS gas on the protesters, some of which were children.
After this attack everyone sat down and began to hold a rally. People took turns speaking into the megaphones and leading chants, dancing, and singing. During this time the Syrians walked down from where they are staying in order to join the demonstration. This continued for around an hour until the police began to start pushing people back, trying to move them on. The protesters responded by running past their lines and into the center of Calais, where they occupied the Boulevard Jacquard. The police, while at first trying to prevent them from occupying the street eventually had to retreat and surrender the main shopping street to the group for a couple of hours while another rally was held. There was a lot of engagement here with the local Calais people who stopped to watch and listen to what the demonstrator’s were demanding.
After the rally, people returned to the jungle, largely at a time of their choosing shouting all the way back. The feeling in the group was really positive as even though they had been stopped from marching down one street they were able to get around the police and occupy and disrupt Calais’ main shopping street. There was a lot of really positive reactions to the demonstration from the people of Calais, and it was really encouraging for the protesters to continue their struggle and demonstrations in the coming days
September 19, 2015
“Refugees Welcome” demo: why numbers aren’t everything
It was organized by English and French volunteers, mainly London2Calais with Aubege des migrants and Secours catholique The main problem is that it was organized without even consulting the people in the jungle who had been organizing their own demonstrations for weeks – for reasons I do not quite understand. Many of the migrant activists boycotted it, as a result of being excluded from its organization. Many of the migrant activists boycotted it, as a result of being excluded from its organization. Despite that, it collected up to 5000 people between refugees, English supporters, local associations. It is clear that the people in the jungle feel safer demonstrating with the support of White/ European people. The demonstration went to the ferry port and not to the centre of town, as the migrants organizing their own demonstrations would have wanted, and thus it had very little visibility. It was mainly a big peaceful march from A to B, without spectators, and the only action was to paint slogans on a fake wall that was later taken away. Only four migrants were invited to speak at the rally, that was mostly monopolized by people with papers.
At the same, time a group of 200 women went marching on their own and were stopped by police . It was the first demonstration by women only.
There was hardly a mention of the demo in the French media, no mention at all in the British media.
I am aware that some do not agree with my, mainly negative, views on this event, and they are welcome to express their views if they so wish. I have even been accused of being divisive,but all I am lamenting in fact is the lack of unity The State and the authorities are very well organized and capable to repress people’s struggles, that is why they stay in power despite the fact that ‘we are many, they are few’. From our side, unity is strength, and divided we fall. And, most sadly, a magic moment in which we could really put up a struggle in Calais and challenge the authorities has passed.
The following Monday planned evictions went ahead, with a lot of violence and total disrespect for migrants and associations .
All 5 camps in town evicted in one day. Over 300 people were pushed into the jungle with violence and use of CS gas, also on a sick man from Syria who could not move fast enough and collapsed after being tear gassed. The makeshift Syrian camps in the port area and by the church in Calais North were evicted, but also the Sudanese who were sleeping outside the old cold weather shelter (BCMO). The evictions went ahead despite the fact big fights had just happened in the jungle. The segregation in Calais is now complete and everybody is in the shantytown. The associations were given minimal time to help people move. Furthermore, the tents of the Eritreans who were past the bridge were evicted and destroyed without any warning, so people lost all their belongings.
Simultaneous demonstrations 17th October
Lively demonstrations on both sides of the Channel.
In Dover 500 people marched from the centre of town to the ferry port, blocking the traffic and causing major delays. Several migrant support organization were present, from Kent, Folkestone, London2Calais brought 3 coaches full of people, Brighton Antifa came.
Protest in Calais organised by Stand Up To Racsim & refugee groups / photo by Guy Smallman copyright
In Calais about 1000 people from the jungle marched with some 300 English supporters. The refugees took the lead of the demonstration and some 7-800 broke into the ferry port, families with children in the first line. Most of the English supporters followed. They were met by lines of police in riot gear who used tear gas to disperse them, even spraying the children. People got angry and threw gravel at the cops, there are no stones or other projectiles there. Some got in between and shouted to stop. It is clear to everybody present that the police used violence first, even gassing women and children. The debate between non-violent protesters and those who are prepared to fight the police was very lively. Eventually people decided to leave. There was a rally outside the ferry port, with music, inspiring speeches by refugees and dancing. Eventually everybody went back to the jungle.
Media silence was almost total, not even the local newspaper wrote a line despite having a journalist and a photographer there. It looks like news are censored.
If anyone has film or photos of the families and children getting tear gassed please send them to me (my SD card broke and I have no pics of the demo).
VIDEO- it is pretty, but it does not show the tear gas
Facist and racist demonstrations
There were two marches of the Calaisiens en colere, a gruoup of local residents who claim to be ‘apolitical’ but in fact are very racist. Some of their leaders have links with the FN, the party of Le Pen. The first demonstration collected about 300 people, who marched in Calais North along the beach. The second, 31/10/2015, attracted about 1000 people who went marching through the centre of town.
VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCdfgXPoWDU c
More worrying, PEGIDA tried to organize a demonstration against migration and against Islam 08/11/15 with the local far right collective Sauvons Calais, the EDL, other far-right c groups. They were hoping to get 380 people, they only managed 60 but they ddmarrch and they did burn a Q’aran in the centre of town, under the eyes of the police who arrested no fash but arrested two anti-racists, one for no reason and one for nicking a flag from the fash, a third person was later charged with assaulting a policeman.
Full report here:
In the evening of the 08/11/2015 there was a mass action of migrants on the motorway trying to break the siege and go to England. Full report here:
A Night of Collective Defiance/ Une nuit de défiance collective
However the collective action on the motorway led to an escalation of police violence and the criminalisation of the No Borders movement, it was followed by a week of unrest and gas attacks on the jungle itself. We were under intense attack from the French State and police who had accused No Borders of inciting the riots, one of our commrades was arrested, see post above, and they were threatening to arrest others.
The next thing that happens is that terrorist attacks happen in Paris, and the state of emergency is proclaimed.
There were vigils and prayers in Calais jungle and in the jungle in Dunkerque, as the people who are fleeing Daesh / ISIL feel for the French people too.
During emergency all demonstration are forbidden and the demo on the 22/11/15 in solidarity with migrants and Sans Papiers was forbidden too, but people marched anyway, 500 people braved the riot police and were met on arrival by many more thousands, see a report here: