Yesterday evening (23 February), in response to the call for international solidarity with the Calais Jungle facing eviction, 30 to 40 people stormed into an elite party hosted by the French ambassador. The party was being held in private members club “Shoreditch House” in the east London hipster heartland, to launch a “Creative France” business campaign promoting hi-tech surveillance cameras, robots and other gadgets.
The event was scheduled to start at 6.30PM. About 6.45, most of the mob easily pushed their way through the main entrance, while some others came in through a side door. Security guards reacted late and a scrum ensued in one bar area, while some made it up to the event area on the 5th floor. Rubbish was strewn in the lobby area. Smoke bombs were set off, which led to fire alarms going off and parts of the building being evacuated.
After the initial scuffles, most of the mob were outside blocking the doors with banners and leafleting the crowds that gathered, including the kitchen workers who had been evacuated. Police cordoned off the streets around and called for TSG riot squad back-up to clear the demonstration. Just as the TSG arrived, everyone left together with no arrests or injuries.
In all, the event was shut down for about 45 minutes. One mainstream media article stated that the ambassador was inside the building but got out early.
Meanwhile in Calais, so far people in the jungle have refused to move from the south zone facing clearance. Today (24 February) a judge will issue a ruling on an appeal against the mass eviction. Depending on the outcome of that ruling, and on the state’s response, the attack could start within hours, or the waiting game could drag on for weeks or more.
In any case, may last night’s demo be just a small beginning in a cross-border campaign of solidarity: to put pressure on the French state and its collaborators from many directions, and make sure attacks on migrants do not go unnoticed or unanswered.
Below is the text of the leaflet distributed last night.
Solidarity with Calais migrants!
No Borders – No Concentration Camps.
In Calais, the French state is clearing the “Jungle”, a refugee slum built on muddy wasteland. 8PM tonight is the deadline given to 3,500 people living in the “South Zone” to get out or face the teargas and bulldozers.
The jungle is a place of squalor and hardship – but also of life, self-organisation and solidarity. Refugees and volunteers together have built houses, shops, cafes, schools, libraries, churches and mosques, a women’s centre, meeting places.
All of this will be destroyed. Instead, France offers 1500 places in a camp of metal containers, fenced and guarded, with access controlled by palm print scanners. For the other thousands, nothing is said.
The people of the jungle refuse to move into a prison camp.
But this is not just their battle. Across Europe, the walls are going up again. Some of the technologies of control and surveillance are new, developed by the high-tech “creative” industries the French government is celebrating at tonight’s event. But the scenes are all too familiar. “First they came for the migrants …”
This is the battle of all of us who don’t want to go back to a time of razorwire fences and concentration camps, of murderous nationalism and authoritarian “states of emergency”.
Borders are weapons of fear and division, used by the elites to carve up the world’s wealth and turn us against each other. Against their vicious world of borders, let’s create networks of solidarity and cultures of openness … and cut down their fences everywhere.
For news from Calais see: calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com
French ambassador to UK Sylvie Bermann