Every month, on the last Saturday of the month, the Campaign to Close Campsfield holds a demo.
As usual, we gathered at the main gate from 12ish with banners. There were around 10 of us. We chanted for the freedom of the detainees, attempted to shame or reason with the guards, and exchanged news.
We were shocked to hear that around 15 of the hunger strikers are still carrying out a partial hunger strike, refusing to take meals from the kitchen, and only surviving on fruit and water. Everybody thought the hunger strike had completely ended on Tues 10th, when most of the detainees stopped. Since it started on 2nd August, at the time of writing, the remaining handful have been on hunger strike nearly a month!
The other news was that yet another mass deportation is planned (by special charter flight), this time to Iraq. NCADC have already reported on this elsewhere:
This is the government's favourite tactic these days; instead of deporting people on normal flights, where tourists may witness the brutality or be persuaded to complain by campaigners leafleting at the airport, they charter a plane to take a whole load of migrants back to Iraq or Afghanistan at once.
But back to the demo. The second part of our routine is to go around the perimeter of Campsfield to a spot where the detainees can hear us better from their exercise yard. Years ago, it used to be possible to see each other through this fence, but of course the authorities couldn't allow that (!) and today there are not only solid plates of metal built into the fence, but even a second layer of lower fencing preventing us from touching the main fence or peering through tiny holes in it.
Unlike at most of the demos, we had a host of drums with us, (courtesy of Breach of the Peace, a local radical samba band) and started playing a slightly improvised (and completely unpracticed) piece. The response from the other side of the fence was enthusiastic; shouting, singing, even a orange and a cushion thrown over the fence. One campaigner said it was the loudest response they'd had in ages, presumably because the drumming was more audible from the inside than just voices.
After a bit of drumming and shouting back and forth, things seemed to get much quieter, and we guessed the guards had forced people back inside. At that we called it a day; they have the rather manipulative policy of not allowing any visitors in at all while the demo is going on, even when we're on the other side of the site from the main gate. This means the organisers are keen to wrap up by 2pm.
As I went home I was left with a familiar feeling; knowing that raising the spirits of the detainees (and challenging the guards) was worthwhile in itself, but feeling that this was just a drop of solidarity in a depressing ocean of oppression. These regular demos keep the pressure up, but their predictable routine can be stifling in itself. How can we turn this situation upside down, become a real threat to the authorities, and achieve radical change? I don't know, but I do know we need to keep asking, and not rest satisfied with our current tactics.
For more info see:
Last Saturday of every month, 12pm-2pm
How to get there: