For the last few days officers have been showing up at camps along Paris’ Saint-Denis canal in the evening to prevent migrants from settling for the night, in an escalation of bully tactics.
The area, has been an ongoing zone of contention since France opted to wage an increasingly callous war on homeless and sans papiers people in the 2010s, with often brutal clearances of Saint-Denis having taken place in 2018, 2019 and in July of this year.
These are resisted and have been heavily criticised by groups which aim to offer support and solidarity in the zone but are continually hampered by police interference, which has typically involved morning roustings of people from under highway bridges and a pushing away of food distributors.
Last week a re-escalation appeared to have begun, according to members of the Popular Solidarity Brigade (BSP) of Aubervilliers-Pantin, who have been taking turns around the Porte d’Aubervilliers in support of migrants in the street. Writing in Paris-Luttes, a member of the group wrote on their impressions:
Friday 25th, 6pm: A meeting is held every evening for several dozen migrants, families, unaccompanied minors and single men at the Rosa Parks community centre, where members of Utopia 56 are trying to manage solidarity, find accommodation and provide some meals.
The cops have for the last two days been circling the camps that are being set up under the nearby Stains Bridge in Aubervilliers, to prevent people from settling in and so they can carry out ID checks. On Thursday four people were detained in this way.
Later, around 8.30pm, I join a friend and head over to the bridge where everything seems calm, just a few tents and no cops. Then I go to Rosa Parks, where several families and a few young people are still struggling to get a place to sleep. We talk to them for a few moments, and distribute the few clothes we have with us.
From them we learn that the quiet is because cops had done the same as on Thursday, making it impossible for anyone who closely or remotely resembles a migrant to enter the group of tents … and the same for anything resembling supporters. On the other hand, cyclists and walkers can continue their journeys quietly on the edge of the canal. Some families who had arrived just after the cops were prevented from settling down and were already turning around, but where to go? We suggest the Landy Bridge a little further north on the canal, but they eventually go in another direction.
Later, Utopia decides to take everyone still in Rosa Parks to the Landy Bridge. They are found a spot to help them settle — the cops won’t have come up that far. Throughout the process you can feel the tension between people, you don’t know if there are enough tents for all. At 11pm, everyone has a little roof over their heads.
Walking back to Stains Bridge, the cops are gone. We discuss with a person who takes the air: two young men have been detained for a vague problem of papers … we will not know more. Still more people arrive, a box or a blanket under their arm, others are alreadying set up a little further away, many without a tent or blanket.
We go home, rage in our hearts.
And because in concrete terms, we need the strengths of all the people who would like to lend a hand. We invite you to organise yourself to be present every evening on site or to contact us to join us: [email protected]