On Saturday, 23rd January, a demonstration consisting of four thousand people between migrants and activists started from the “jungle”, as the Calais refugee camp is called, and headed towards the city. While protesting against racial discrimination, vouching for right to mobility, and speaking out against poor living conditions in the camp due to extreme overcrowding, the demonstration approached the port. There, it culminated as hundreds of migrants began to overcome the fences and undo the enclosures, striving for a dream: to board the “Spirit of Britain” ferry towards better chances for a dignified life.
The police, baffled by the resonance of the protest, reacted with tear gas and water cannons, and then proceeded to evacuate the ferry and carry out arrests. Thirty-five people were held in custody, including three Italian activists who reside in France. These latter activists were charged with mischief and breaching of the public order, and are now facing the risk of expulsion from the country and removal from the place where they live and work, all due to the state of emergency that is in effect.
The British truckers have vouched for the employment of the military, as to “protect” the port’s trade interests, in a climate of extreme tension marred by racism-motivated assaults with the tacit assent of the law enforcement agencies. Fifty million euro have been immediately allocated by the government for this purpose, money which could have otherwise surely helped tackle the emergency situation which has spawned this righteous protest among men and women who struggle for better living conditions. It is one more time entirely apparent how the three-month extension of the “state of emergency” measure, at first declared in the aftermath of Paris’ November attacks, is a repressive device which is particularly suitable for laying off the right to dissent and uprooting “welcome refugees” mobilizations.
Photos of a neo-nazi “bravely facing” the demonstration guns-at-hand became popular much faster than those showing a man critically injured by police at the edge of the protest did. The press is tuning up to the choir of a “fortress under siege” in which dwell men whose rights only matter as much as their means to consume do; and where different sets of rights apply to different sets of flags, such as those of migrant, asylum-seeker, refugee… Meanwhile, we do not forget that more than 15 migrants have lost their lives over the last six months while trying to cross the English Channel, all the while it takes just 30 minutes for goods and wares to overcome that narrow stretch of water and land in Great Britain.
Currently, eight activists (six of whom are migrants) are supposed to appear before the court of Boulogne-sur-mer, while four others were released on Sunday. The three Italian activists are still being held in Lille’s administrative detention center while waiting for the outcome of their appeal of the expulsion measure, which should be known by Friday.
Starting from today, Martina, Ornella e Valentina need support and solidarity from everyone for their immediate release and to prevent any expulsion.
We are encouraging activists and supporters everywhere to assert this pressure with demos, banners, messages to France’s embassy.