Since the news of the impending opening of the Kronstadt Hanger, a self-organised resource centre for activists and migrants alike, the police had closely monitored the building and effective mounted a blockade of it since last Friday. On Saturday, people managed to circumvent the 3 police lines blocking access to the front door (they did not force their way in as Besson has claimed). Their numbers were swollen with migrants who were once again shelter-less following the closure after 2 days of the cold weather shelter at the BCMO. What had been organised, as the Nord Littoral accurately put it was "an afternoon and evening discussions to inform and debate with neighbours on the use of Kronstadt Street Hangar."
The police then reinforced their lines and told the occupants that they would be allowed to leave but that no one would be allowed to enter the hanger, thus turning it into a siege. Migrants were allowed to leave to go for their lunch on Sunday but when they tried to return, together with a number of activists who had been trapped outside the building all day, they were brutally assulted by CRS officers in riot gear. All this time journalists were kept away from the building despite requests to enter.
The police then parked 2 large trucks in front of the building, effectively screening the entrance from the surrounding streets. The waiting press, including TV cameramen, were violently pushed back by the CRS (a senior officer was heard to cry out "Pas de violences médiatiques!"*) as they formed a cordon around the front of the building and arrested activists outside the hanger. The migrants inside, fearing for their safety, then left in small groups with the No Borders activists barricaded inside.
70 police then proceeded to smash their way into the building through the glass doors when only a dozen or so No Borders activists, well below the fire safety limit which is one of the excuses the authorities have been putting forward as a reason for closing the hanger down, were left inside. One volunteer had her nose broken and activists were bullied before being arrested and taken away for identity checks. The police then set about smashing much of the donated materials inside, including a long wooden counter. Many items were removed (stolen) and the large metal shutter on the front of the building has since been securely fastened to prevent further entry.
Our response is to take the authorities to the courts to secure our legal right to use the building. Besson and Bouchart have framed their reasons for closing the hanger down almsot exclusively in political terms:
"[The state] will not allow the reconstruction of a place which serves as a base camp to mafia networks of clandestine immigration near the port of Calais". - Besson
"(There will be) neither a new Sangatte, nor a new jungle" - the Secretary of State for the Family Nadine Morano. "We will not let anyone stay in the woods or in hangars ... the doctrine of the government is clear: we want a humane immigration, respectful whilst, at the same time, fighting against the networks of clandestine immigration."
Bouchart (the mayor of Calais) claimed that they had been tricked and spoke of "provocation" by the network No Border (sic). "The plan grand froid was activated for a day and a half and, as agreed with the associations, the room [BCMO] was closed. It had been agreed by all" (i.e. all that accept the mayor's paltry 'aid' and who refuse to criticise her in any fashion) that the room could not longer be "occupied at night."
"(We will not) allow zealots to manipulate us and risk triggering an extreme response." - Bouchart. So No Borders manipulated you into ordering the extreme (violent) response by the CRS?
Whilst rationalising it as a 'heath and safety issue':
"The police forces and the state have guaranteed me that they have set up an operation to prevent the migrants from entering the private place." - Bouchart
The occupation of this hangar which is "unsuitable to accommodate people" is "unacceptable", concluded the minister, who has "started to consider actions which will bring an end" to this situation. - Besson
Why is it that the French media can paint an at least somewhat accurate picture of the goings on but the UK media needless to say consistently get most of the details wrong?** "French riot police forcibly evicted 100 Britain-bound migrants last night from a building dubbed ‘Sangatte II’." - Metro. "Riot police clashed with UK bound migrants yesterday during a mass eviction of a charity welcome centre in Calais." - Daily Mail.
* "Don't injure the media" - the No Borders activists anfd the migrants are 'fair game', but not the press.
** Of course this is a rhetorical question.