Tonight, I was cycling back home after a very long day and I saw a couple of CRS vans parked across the street from Africa House. That was the third police intervention today on Africa House. I was there for each and everyone of them. The amount of police pressure on the place is ridiculous considering the fact that no one is harmed by the occupation; save a capitalist mayor who’s interested in destroying everything and disregarding the migrants’ basic rights even further.
The day had begun with a very early lookout, on a roundabout leading to Africa House. We expected the CRS to come through there, but I hadn’t expected them to drive onto the pavement and past a wasteland area. From my vantage point, it seemed like they were taking a road that would stop them from getting too close. So that was a bit of a failure. I started walking towards the front of Africa House, and saw people getting their IDs checked, and their cameras were in the hands of the CRS. (Plate numbers were written down, after which a CRS came to me and asked in a threatening tone if I didn’t want their names with these. AD-832DB, 78N-4412B, 78N-4422B. We’ve already filed a complaint with other plate numbers.)
Now, that’s obviously a crime because you can take pictures of the CRS if you like, but the CRS don’t think like that. So the heat was getting up and people started to get angry, as did I. The CRS didn’t know me, so I passed myself off as a British activist, which is easy as piss if you got the accent, and they don’t expect you to understand anything they say, so you get a lot less hassle.
One of them took A’s camera and for some reason went further in the squat to do God knows what. When I tried to approach to see what he was doing, I was told in strong terms that I could not go any further, and I had to stay back. So we were all ears for any sign of voluntary damage. It looked like someone else was looking at it.
The big-boned CRS returned saying that it was not theft and the camera would be returned. It was in the end, but, much too late, its owner realized the tape was missing. Now, how do you get it back? Well, you need to get to the police station and ask to have it. It can’t be more awkward and disempowering. Still, the incident was over and only 3 people had been arrested.
It looks like the very same day, the border police came around. This is a different story from the CRS. These guys are based locally. There’s no British accent I can use; they know me. I was just accompanying a journalist who didn’t know where was what and I thought we were gonna have English/French lessons there in Africa House. After all, there had been a raid the very previous morning; can’t people be left the fuck alone?
Well no. This time, it didn’t seem like there had been any arrests. People had just been told to leave, and they didn’t need to be told twice. Their stuff was still in. All this I had no idea of when I arrived on the scene, and the cops asked me directly what I was doing, to which I simply responded, I’m just here to look. The journalist was just behind me, still a passer-by to the other police. We congregated and he proposed to try saying he’s a journo and so they should let him see.
That didn’t work. So we were standing around and trying to understand what was happening, and I got some people to come to help us. P went to the park to ask some questions, and it seemed that people had just been evicted without arrests. So, there was no one inside. We stayed in front of the squat for a while longer, and our sympathetic journalist left with some catholic guy who can’t stand us.
Seeing that nothing at all was happening, we also decided to leave in the end, especially as we each had other things to do. I had to get some pictures done for someone, and barely had time to breathe before meeting with him. I was looking forward to get this day over with, having been up since 5 fucking am, with 5 hours of sleep. The picture taking took place without any problem.
After a meeting that was longer than I hoped for, but still decent anyway, I cycled back home and saw a couple of CRS vans across the street from Africa House, and that’s the beginning of this post. Oh fucking hell. Three times the same day, that’s just too much. I’m texting the comms phone and the journalist from the afternoon. I also note down the plate numbers sneakily, but I make the mistake to hover around. The drivers stay in their vans, and wonder what I’m doing, walking up and down the street.
They get out, and I know I’m in for a bit of harassment. They start out asking if I’m male or female. My hair is a bit long and prejudiced people have issues determining my gender. Then of course, they ask to see my ID. They make me empty my bag, to see all that belongs to me. Ask me what’s my job. Oh, you’re looking for work. (Implying:you’re a parasite.) What are you doing here? Are you part of an association?
Trying to stop their humiliation, I say that I’m just wondering what’s the problem, because I see police around. They buy it, and just do a small check. Oh all the acid I’d have gotten, all the hurt they’d have done if I’d said I was a No Borders activist.
And in their ever-patronizing tone: ‘You have nothing to do here, this is a monitored space, it’s under surveillance. So this is what you’re going to do: you’re going to go home, have a good night of sleep, and then look for work tomorrow. Okay?’
I nod slowly to that, emphasizing the arrogance and tyranny of it all, but they don’t get it. In the end I just swallow my dignity, and go.
This is why as a rule we try to never be alone facing police. It is so very disempowering and humiliating and frustrating. Who can withstand this? I can’t. I left and I feel so powerless.