On May 10, 2014, Calais Migrant Solidarity put online a video that made a buzz. It showed the Police violently dragging some Exiles out of a truck, hitting them and then throwing them over the side of the highway. This is neither the first nor the last time that activists have witnessed police violence.
During the Summer of 2014, it was a Police officer, the union representative of the SGP United Force Ouvriere Police Union , who in turn put online groups of Exiles, especially when attempting to cross inside the port, with a voiceover telling us what to watch.Cop-watching has now been succeeded by migrant-watching.
The difference is that the cop-watching is a citizen’s activity that monitors the activity of a public service in a context where it may malfunction, especially when there are abuses, violence or violations of the law committed by agents who are supposed to prevent abuse and violence and ensure respect for the law. And that the Police, if they witness offenses, are supposed to intervene, that is their role, they do not need to put videos on the internet, they behave as if they are a gang confronting a rival gang and to whom they are responding .
The posting of these videos was accompanied by frequent contact with the media. Work has been done to reverse the image, showing migrants as the aggressors , Exiles are no longer shown in the destitution of camps or in a compassionate fashion but in the dynamic of crossing and of group actions with a commentary which develops in the imagination, assaults, an attack, an invasion, a legitimizing of a military type of action, the violence needed to cope with that.
The relaying of these images and the posting of the videos was done by far-right groups that are formed around Facebook pages such as Calaisiens en Colère or Calais Libre, when they began to do vigils alongside the Police around the slum and patrolling the highway and the port bypass.
On 13 October 2014, the United Police SGP Force Ouvrière Union organized an anti-migrant demonstration, with shopowners, farmers, bar owners, hunters, calling on the people to mobilize. We can read in their tract that “migrants are inexorably amassing at the gates of the British El Dorado” or “The continual flow of migrants has lead the local economy into an unprecedented crisis and companies are threatened. “
This event was an important moment, in which the shock wave spread to several levels. It was followed by a media focus on “Fed up Calaisians”, with recurring elements of language on the number of “migrants”having got too many, and the fact that “they have changed “,” before they were polite, now they are aggressive. ”
In Autumn 2014, the municipal and government authorities had already decided to evict Exiles from camps located in the city and its immediate approaches, to focus on the site existing on the other side of the ring road bypass. This media coverage of ” Fed up Calaisians ” was timely , it thus legitimized the separation of the two populations.
Daily, a growing number of bars, and to a lesser extent shops, are refusing entry or refusing to serve those identified as “migrants” or “No-border” or “pro-migrants”. The media discourse, at least locally, works more and more on “pro” and “anti”.
On 24th January 2016, the economic actors of Calais organized an event to promote the city with the slogan “my Port is beautiful, my City is beautiful.” The organizers talked little about the Exiles, and emphasize that we need to establish decent conditions to end the image of misery that is now contiguous with the city , to move on. The previous day a demonstration in support of the Exiles had taken place some of whom got into the harbour and climbed on the ferry. The mayor of Calais outdid herself on the demonstration on the 24th with a violently xenophobic speech, The minister of the Interior created a media spectacle around the events of the 23rd, opposing the two actions of the “pro” and “anti -migrants “. What finally came across, was the demonstration of the 23rd that took place was at the initiative of a Parisian collective, creating an opposition between “Calaisians” and ” outsiders”, “migrants” and “foreign activists “.
The media work done on the level of economic actors has continued , making more nuanced words inaudible and leading to the Highway Blockade announced for the 5th of September , uniting hauliers organizations, the CGT dockers, the FDSEA (Departmental federation of Farmers’ Unions), traders and others to demand the destruction of the slum. Which caused the lightning visit of the Interior Minister who came, to not announce anything, but to legitimize the planned action by coming and giving a national dimension to the movement.