AN ELITE tactical unit of the French police launched a rooftop raid on an empty residential tower building in Calais today, using stun grenades to clear out activists who had been providing shelter for refugees this past week.
In scenes resembling Holywood cinema or the Grand Theft Auto video game series, the Search, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence (Raid) police unit landed a helicopter atop the building in Rue d’Ajaccio, in the city’s northeast.
Video footage of the event later showed Raid Police officers, normally deployed to counter-terrorism operations and hostage situations, on the roof of the tower block before two loud explosions light up its top-floors.
Despite the Raid police’s theatrics, only one of the activists inside the building was arrested. The rest escaped, while their supporters outside scuffled with the cops.
The occupiers, a confederation of housing and refugee rights activists known as Calais Accommodation For All, took over the condemned building last Friday, along with an empty house elsewhere in the city in which they still reside.
The group said earlier this week that the occupations were carried out as part of last weekend’s CommemorActions — commemorative protests held in remembrance of people killed crossing borders.
“We are occupying a tower [block] in Rue d’Ajaccio, as well as a house on Rue Frederic Sauvage in political and material solidarity with the 1,000 people blocked at the French-British border who are made to live outside,” Calais Accommodation For All said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We want to fight the violent and racist border policies that have deliberately created a humanitarian crisis in Calais by opening up dignified, safe and autonomous living spaces.”
On Tuesday, however, the police surrounded the Rue d’Ajaccio tower block, preventing Calais Accommodation For All’s supporters from accessing or delivering food, water and medicines to the building.
“The immediate repression of these initiatives demonstrates that the state refuses all grassroots organising to ameliorate the problems that it creates,” the group said today.
“The police do not hesitate to gas families and groups who came to support the occupation, filling the apartment block with smoke and thus expressing the response of the state; extremely sharp and violent means to silence initiatives of popular solidarity.
“Empty buildings, often state owned, are everywhere, despite the fact that tens of thousands of people do not have a roof over their heads in the middle of winter.
“We wish to express our immense gratitude for the support of the inhabitants, their smiles and their energy as well as the solidarity canteen that was set up outside the building every day. And thank you to the choir, we are going to get on great!
“Solidarity has no frontiers, down with states and borders, freedom for all.”