Squatters Recycle a Recycling Plant in Calais
July 16th, migrants and supporters marched in Calais, France, where police persecution of undocumented migrants reached a climax earlier this month with violent mass arrests and evictions of living spaces.
Around 500 people – Including migrants, solidarity activists, humanitarian associations, lefties, antifa and more – assembled in the town square and then made their way through the main streets, following a samba band and chanting in support of refugees and exiles.
The cops took a rather laissez-faire approach to the unregistered demo, with only one car front and rear making half-hearted attempts to redirect traffic. The local fascists, Sauvons Calais, failed to appear in force after bigging themselves up on social media and the few stragglers that appeared on a side street were easily seen off by the antifa.
So far, so predictable. The march, however, didn't eventually disperse. Taking an unexpected turn into a side street, it stopped in front of an old metal recycling plant.
With hundreds of people blocking the road and no police in sight, activists took to the microphone to explain that the plant was being squatted and that those who wished to enter could do so. Materials sufficient for maintaining up to two hundred people for days inside the squat were swiftly unloaded from a waiting van.
Inside, the marchers marvelled at the size of the place: 12000 square metres to be exact. Outside, nearly enough space to make a football pitch and surrounded by cop-proof ten metre high walls of rusty metal, an apocalyptic sight described by one as “an industrial wet dream”.
People then set to work creating barricades for a small patch of low fence and arranging cooking and washing areas, temporary toilets and sleeping spaces. After two days, the immediate threat of eviction had passed and some 300 new residents of many nationalities settled in.
The march and action came one week after the horrific 'rafle' of the 2nd of July: the systematic rounding up and arrests of over 600 people and the destruction of their living spaces. Previous evictions had left hundreds of people sleeping in the open air of a food distribution yard near the port.
The morning of the raids, tear gas was used to prevent anyone escaping arrest, while European supporters were violently removed. At the same time, two other squats were raided and evicted. Space in detention centres across France had been cleared in preparation, although days later people were gradually freed and returned. As with other attempts by the authorities to harass and persecute refugees, the whole charade was both brutal and utterly pointless.
As well as repressing migrants on the ground, the municipality has issued new 'anti-vagrant' and 'anti-gathering' decrees aimed purely at the repression of migrants and those organising in their support.
The action was not just a No Borders stunt – various associations and groups came together: A communiqué was released with around 35 signatories stating the squat's objective as a practical response to the humanitarian emergency, and as a political statement to denounce the violence and call for the authorities to respect people's dignity and their obligations to refugees.
So far there has been no official response to the occupation. Activists are urgently needed on the ground to help run and defend the space, as the threat of illegal eviction by the police remains.