‘They’re adults lying about their age’

That’s what lots of commenters write on articles about Calais, including people who have commented on my posts here (I haven’t published those remarks). But here’s the thing:

No one said they would be toddlers. Calling them children is an accurate way to describe people who have not yet reached their 18th birthday. But 17 and 18-year-olds who have spent several months in a refugee camp look like adults. Trauma ages them. They might not have been able to shave recently. They might be on the very cusp of adulthood. But for now, they are children and it’s out duty to protect them. They will have spent a huge chunk of their childhood either living in a war zone or escaping it. Should they not now have a chance to rest and recover from that before starting adulthood? It takes a particular kind of callousness to insist they stay in a soon-to-be-demolished camp just because they can’t prove their credentials…

For those who ask harsh questions about where all the tiny children and girls are, I give you harsh answers. They didn’t make it. The girls have been sex-trafficked. The tiny children have died. The ones who are now arriving in the UK are strong looking because only the strongest have survived these harsh conditions. Seven-year-olds aren’t equipped to cross a continent and then fend for themselves in a makeshift tent. They die, they disappear…

More here.

And another thing: why exactly is it that some people are so unwilling to lend sympathy to young men? Can they not also suffer? This seems to be one pernicious effect of the way masculinity is constructed in our still patriarchal system: men are not vulnerable. Men should be able to fend for themselves. Men do not need protection.

What one white person learned whilst visiting Standing Rock

I’m home now in Chicago, but I was at Standing Rock just a few days ago. I know how it feels to sleep outside in two sleeping bags and a winter coat in below-freezing weather, and wake up to the sounds of people coughing from tents surrounding you. I remember feeling the ground shake as horses stampeded past on the way to the front lines. I can hear the elders on the microphone—the voice of the camp at the sacred fire—urging non-violence, keeping everything grounded in prayer and ceremony…

…By allowing Dakota Access to dig under the Missouri River to run this pipeline, the government is putting private interest before the public’s health. Flint, Michigan showed us what a water crisis looks like on a relatively small scale—“small” being an entire city.

By allowing the fossil fuel industry to occupy the land and rivers of the United States instead of shifting to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, the government is putting private interest before the environment. In the past 12 months alone, North Dakota reported 272 uncontained oil spills, defined as “an overflow of the facility boundaries or a leak from a facility pipeline.” Contained oil spills: 904 in North Dakota alone.

By allowing this construction to happen on indigenous land, the government is putting private interest before Native American treaty rights. In September, the construction company dug up human remains from a Native American burial ground, which is why dozens of campers are occupying the land at this specific location, directly beside the burial ground. This is land that originally belonged to the tribe as a result of the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851.

Read more here.

Calais – situation still desperate

The situation in Calais is still completely desperate. Some refugees have been housed in good conditions, but there are a lot still left behind, and no-one is taking proper care of them except the volunteer aid agencies staffed by ordinary folk who’ve gone to Calais to try and help. Day 6, and there are still children sleeping rough, children sleeping in shipping containers being fed by volunteers, with the only government authorities present being the police.


If you would like to help, the volunteer groups have asked for people to tweet about the situation.

We are about to take to twitter (Starting at 12.30pm GMT) to highlight the tragedy that is still unfolding before our eyes. Below are 5 tweets we are asking you to tweet out, you can retweet and share as much as possible by searching #refugeecommunitykitchen I have also included 2 photo’s here if you could attach them. Many thanks.

1500+ children spent night no3 in cold containers no news no help Broken promises. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

1500+ children in shipping containers #Calais & we are the only ones feeding them. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are still feeding people who have nothing. The situation is beyond cruel. . #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are working all night to feed those left behind. Call your MP RT #DubsNow #AmberRudd #Calais #refugeecommunitykitchen

Urgent 1500+ forgotten in Calais. Govts act now. Working all night to feed them. Write to your MP & Amber Rudd #refugeecommunitykitchen

How to Help in Calais

The clearing of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp has left some people, including children, sleeping rough.

All this week bulldozers and police have moved into the camp to evict the people there. It is chaos. Voluntary organisations are desperately trying to help the children eligible to come to Britain safely and legally – whether because they have family in the UK or they qualify under the Dubs amendment.

Yet they and the British officials now working with them have faced persistent difficulties ensuring the children are registered by the French and so in safe locations – resulting in many being put at risk or taken out of Calais to unknown destinations. Without action more could go missing and last night many slept rough in the dangerous remains of the camp.

Stella Creasy MP has produced text of a letter in French and English so that you can write to the French authorities about this.

Go here for instructions. There is also a link for writing to your own MP.

Black Lives Matter UK – UFFC remembrance procession

The United Families and Friends Campaign was set up in the UK in 1997 to seek justice for those who have died in police custody in the UK. Originally a group of black families, the movement has expanded to include people of different ethnicities (and their supporters) whose loved ones have been killed by the police. For the past eighteen years, the UFFC has held a remembrance procession around October, where people walk from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street in memory of the people killed. This year, the procession takes place on Saturday October 29th.

The UFFC calls for the following:

  • Prison deaths be subject to a system of properly funded investigation that is completely independent of the Prison Service;
  • Officers involved in custody deaths be suspended until investigations are completed;
  • Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts;
  • Police forces be made accountable to the communities they serve;
  • Legal Aid and full disclosure of information is available to the relatives of victims;
  • Officers responsible for deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.

Violence at Standing Stone Camp

Big Oil meets grass roots resistance. I’ve posted a video before from the Sacred Stone Camp. Predictably, as time goes on, things have gotten uglier. Police have been drafted in from various locations to deal with the protesters, along with private security firms hired by the oil companies. They will attempt to secure the pipeline in the face of protests by any means necessary. So far this has included: pepper spraying people at prayer, beatings, firing live rounds at horse riders and their horses, setting trained dogs on protesters, mass arrests, concussion grenades thrown into crowds… the militarised force of the State versus the people. Uncomfortable echoes of earlier times when First Nations people and Native Americans were brutally attacked and murdered by the authorities, trying to defend their land. And as climate change starts to bite, and the need for alternative sources of energy to fossil fuels becomes increasingly urgent, this is everyone’s fight.

Over 300 police officers in riot gear, 8 ATVs, 5 armored vehicles, 2 helicopters, and numerous military-grade humvees showed up north of the newly formed frontline camp just east of Highway 1806.

You can follow what’s happening over at the Sacred Stone Camp Facebook page. The people on the ground there are asking for videos of events to be shared.

If, like me, you’re sat behind a keyboard many, many miles away wondering what you can do, you can donate to the Camp’s legal fund. There’s info here.

An earlier article about the Camp from Huffpo is here.

Calais refugee camp cleared -many refugees left sleeping on the street

Clearing the notorious ‘Jungle’ settlement in Calais was always going to be somewhat chaotic. There are so many desperate people living there, and the French authorities have shown on many occasions that sympathy for the plight of the many refugees stuck at the border is limited. Some people who managed to register were sent to official centres and reported that conditions were good. They had their own rooms, food, toilet and shower facilities. But not everyone managed to register yesterday. When registration shut, there were several people, including approximately 300 unaccompanied minors, who were turned away and told to go back to the Jungle, despite the fact that the entire settlement was on fire. With nowhere to go, the grass roots organisations staffed by volunteers, worked hard to desperately find them somewhere to go, and to distribute blankets, food and water to them. Volunteers slept outside with refugees to try and safeguard people. A depressingly predictable situation.

You can read more here.

Dialogues on Disability – Cecilea Mun

It’s that time again – Shelley’s latest interview is out. This time she interviews Cecilea Mun, who talks about being a first generation US citizen, a first-generation university graduate, starting a new journal, life with ADD, and much, much more.

My guest today is Cecilea Mun. Cecilea is a philosopher of emotion, currently at work on a manuscript entitled Interdisciplinary Foundations for the Science of Emotion: Unification Without Consilience. She is also putting together a proposal for an anthology entitled Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Shame: Theory, Method, Norms, Cultures, and Politics, for which she seeks a publisher, and will soon launch the Journal of Philosophy of Emotion, along with its associated Society for Philosophy of Emotion. Cecilea is seeking a full-time academic position that supports her research and currently works as a full-time adjunct at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, while spending quality time with her family.

You can read the whole interview here.

Police brutality in France

The recent horrifying terrorist attacks in France have reportedly led – some might say, with gloomy predictability – to an increase in police brutality against Muslim and black people within its borders.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch separately produced reports detailing what they describe as ‘abusive and discriminatory raids’ against Muslim people in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

Those targeted said the police burst into homes, restaurants, or mosques; broke people’s belongings; threw Qurans on the floor; terrified children; and placed restrictions on people’s movements so severely that they lost jobs and income, or suffered physically…
In one house raid, Human Rights Watch said, police broke four of a disabled man’s teeth before they realised he was not the person they were looking for…
In another case recorded by Amnesty, police forced open the door of an elderly man with heart problems, causing him to faint. He was later taken to hospital in an ambulance, while his daughters – one of whom is disabled – were handcuffed and screamed at by officers.

You can read more from Aljazeera here.

Residents of the Calais refugee camp, known as The Jungle, also suffer at the hands of the police. The violence has noticeably increased after the terrorist attacks, with what reports describe as ‘civil militias’ now involved too.

In Paris, a couple of months ago, Adama Traore, a young black man, died in police custody. The ‘official’ version of events has been variously that he had a heart attack, that he had a serious infection, that he was intoxicated, that he suffered from previous health problems. But an independent autopsy carried out on the instructions of his family show that he died from asphyxia. Blood test results show that he was not intoxicated at the time of his death. His family say he had no long-standing health conditions, and was beaten to death by the police. Sound familiar?

Then last week, Sorbonne professor Guillame Vadot was attacked by the police for filming their mistreatment of a young woman (not white, of course) in the train station he was passing through, who didn’t have a ticket. Police officers snatched his phone, pinned him to a wall, and threatened to kill and rape him. One of them groped him. Vadot is filing a report with the General Inspector of the National Police Force for ‘abuse of power, willful acts of violence, sexual assault, rape threats and injuries’. In so doing he wishes to draw attention primarily

to all those who are subjected to this kind of brutality within this context. [An attack such as his] is the result of the laws and regulations put in place in the past few months, which have given the police a sense of impunity… We cannot consider this to be normal, we are not going to get used to it.