It was a colourful group of individuals who descended upon Campsfield at around 12; a combination of seasoned activists and newcomers made up the protest. Banners calling for an end to Campsfield were hung to the high fences that imprison Campsfield’s inhabitants. There was a combination of spontaneous chanting, singing and dancing, and impromptu speeches. Dr Evan Harris (MP for Oxford West and Abingdon – he, unsurprisingly (he is a politician after all!) stayed no more than five minutes after making his speech, the first), No Borders, Barbed Wire Britain and Campaign to Close Campsfield all gave speeches talking about the work they are currently doing. There was also a moving speech by a migrant who has seen his friends kidnapped by the authorities and put in detention centres, and seen the suffering that it causes, and even a dedicated trade unionist all the way from Coventry (who comes up every month!) said a few passionate words about the cruelty of Campsfield.
The most touching and rewarding moments of the event was the tentative interaction between the protestors and those trapped inside. On several occasions we could see prisoners waving through the bars of their windows at us, to see this is to know that the activism we are doing is not futile, and that regardless of whether or not Campsfield will continue to operate, the solidarity provided to the prisoners is of some mental comfort to them – although, of course, it is the very least of what we all want to do for them.
The music cheerfully provided was a very collective affair, with many people finding some kind of instrument, and everybody joining in hearty renditions of ‘Freedom’, ‘Bella Ciao’, etc. Hopefully the chanting and singing will have been heard by those incarcerated within Campsfield, and the frequent presence of activists at Campsfield will allow the prisoners to feel that they are not alone, and the whole of Britain is not committed to the prevailing racist immigration controls.
It should be noted that, in contrast to previous events, the police presence was low-key and totally non-confrontational – this probably contributed towards the good-heartedness of the whole event.
Every last Saturday of the month activists gather to protest against Campsfield. Today’s protest was special only in that it marked the 16th (and hopefully last) anniversary of Campsfield. All readers are urged to come out whenever they can to the monthly protests.