I haven’t been able to get a photo but this is the link to the police firing tear gas, I was at the other end of this media portrayal.
The other side of the story:
Yesterday I went to Calais, just a quick very long day trip to take things needed and lend a hand.
Anything can happen in the Calais camp. Anything. You step foot inside those invisible, but much felt, walls and you step away from anything that was ever familiar and into a condensed version of the world that is currently going crazy.
I started my day with a visit to a beautful lady who, the last time I left, was just starting contractions. Those contractions are now a 3 week bundle of joy called Rosy. Heaven only knows what life has in store for her. It’s not looking too good at the moment in a damp, leaking caravan with no heating and surrounded by squalor.
I popped to the library and perused the shelves for a book on Organic Chemistry. A man from Eritrea, keen to keep reading what he has studied back at home, spoke enthusiastically about chemistry, plants and also about the chemical compounds of tear gas and the ways in which it harms its unfortunate recipients. Miraculously we found exactly the book that he was looking for.
Out on the main drag, I felt a tug on my sleeve and a very poorly looking young man rasps ‘Doctor’, he is clearly racked with fever and we set off in search of a doctor. Thwarted by the usual doctor hotspots we go further afield but he is struggling to walk and is wheezing pretty badly so with determination in my step, I told him that we would go to a centre at the end of the camp. As we walked through the crowds we heard a commotion, someone had been knocked down on the motorway and people anxiously try and reach him. There was a level of shouting and panic and people started running towards us and, I realise, we are quickly being enveloped in a thick fog. By the time I work out what it is my eyes and skin are on fire. Tear gas. I thought of all the chemical compounds that I had so very recently learnt about and the harm that it does. Actually, it is very aptly named as tears were quickly streaming down my face and it felt as though I was breathing in fire. I grabbed poor sickly man and ducked into the nearest makeshift building. When I open my eyes I am greeted by some shifty looking men and sickly man looks as though he has now descended into his own personal hell. One man starts blowing cigarette smoke into my eyes. It helps apparently.
We were nowhere near the motorway and the so called riot that was shown on the news and is so often shown in the media. There was no way that throwing tear gas into the bit of camp that we were in would be in any way a safety precaution by the police. A bit of fun on their part? Sadly, this happens far too frequently for that to be a myth. Recently, police were throwing tear gas into the family field. Children, babies who were asleep were awoken to the same toxic fire that I felt yesterday although for children and babies it must be a great deal worse.
I try really really hard to see every point of view. Police have families to keep, they have a job to do etc etc but that is just brutal. I don’t know if they have to try these things out before inflicting tear gas on the world but if they did and they then still chuck these things about for fun then the only words I have for them are not printable. Yesterday I saw injuries of rubber bullets fired at will at young men. These police are robots, vicious ones.
The people in the camp are desperate, the conditions are dire and winter is setting in. The stalemate that continues between France and the UK shows no sign of shifting and these people continue to live in conditions that defy belief.
The only answer that Britain and France can come up with is tear gas and rubber bullets.