Thursday, 18 June 2009

More French Scare Stories

In another move designed to increase fear amongst Calaisiens, the local préfet Pierre de Bousquet has prohibited the local sale of petrol and gas canisters for the duration of the Camp. Clearly he thinks No Borders is a terrorist organisation. If so, then why isn't he arresting the camp organisers under the catch-all French Anti-Terrorist law of “criminal association in relation to a terrorist undertaking"? More likely he thinks that by denying campers gas to cook with he will starve them out of town. But then again, if they have no petrol to put in the vehicles they arrived in, how will they get away?

The No Border camp has nothing to do with the recent G20 or the anti-NATO camps at Strasbourg as de Bousquet has alleged. He talks about the history of violence at No Border Camps and I wonder where he's getting his history from. In 2007 there were 3 No Borders Camps (Ukraine, Gatwick and the Mexico-US border*) and there was no violence whatsoever at any of those. The Dikili Camp in Turkey in 2008 - totally peaceful again despite heavy-handed police tactics against the campers.

Maybe he's thinking of the Patras Camp last year. Yes, there was one incident where demonstrators clashed with riot police. And that was caused when the police got the bizarre idea into their head that a demonstration that has been publicly announced to be heading from the Camp site to the migrants camp (where conditions resemble a concentration camp, except in a concentration camp there are at least rudimentary medical facilities), was in fact heading to the port to hijack a ship to take the migrants to Italy. How stupid can you get?

They blocked the road to the port (the site of the migrants' camp) and there was a standoff with the march refusing to leave. Eventually the head of the port authority got the police to move aside and the march progressed peacefully to the camp to show its solidarity with the migrants. (Given the fact that any form of demonstration, whether it be a farmers' protest or student demonstration against grant cuts invariably end in a fight with the notorious Greek riot police, his was in fact an eminently peaceful event.)

This is exactly the sort of crass stupidity that the local authorities in Northern France are showing, creating a situation where their predictions of violence becomes more likely simply through their ramping up the levels of police repression.

De Bousquet says they "have intercepted messages in which the organisers have asked people to come with gas protections but also with tear gas bombs," and to "hire people who have experience of emergency medicine." Again lies. It is standard practice (and required under both French and UK law) in any public event to provide medical aid. The Climate Camp does it (and they hold peaceful events), even Glastonbury (which is on at the same time as the Calais Camp) does it.

And on the tear gas front, the messages he says the police have intercepted are clearly the ones that have gone out very recently on the camp organisational e-mail list (not a secret list but one open to everyone involved in any way in the organisation of the camp and which probably numbers nearly 100 members) asking for people with experience in treating tear gas victims to share their knowledge. This is an eminently sensible precaution since it became obvious that the police and prefecture are seeking confrontation whether the Camp is peaceful or not.

Ask the Jungle dwellers whether it matters whether they are engaged in violence or not as they endure being tear gassed as they sleep in their makeshift shelters during the daily early morning CRS riot police raids.

* There was an incident after the US Camp at the Mexico-US event had broken up where the US Border Patrol, without giving an order to disperse or other warning, brutally attacked those on the US side with point-blank rounds of pepper-spray pellets, batons, and swarm tactics, leaving several badly injured. (Link)

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