Considerations on the camping against the borders passamontagna. Another border death.
The Passamontagna’s practice did not work. After years, various camps and numerous demonstrations that led us to cross the border together, without anyone – for one day – risking their life to cross this imaginary line called border, this time the collective crossing failed.
On Saturday 5th, in fact, more than 500 people left the campsite set up in Claviere to reach the next stop, in France. The gendarmerie in riot gear, deployed on all the paths, blocked our passage. Tear gas and stun grenades were already positioned upstream from the procession. Almost thirty trucks and riot cars on the French side, plus those positioned on the Italian side. It was decided not to go to the clash that would have been necessary to try to pass, to avoid a very likely massacre. The French police have changed their practice over the years, increasing their level of violence and use of weapons from time to time. We did not want – in that situation – to risk serious injuries.
Like every day, this weekend there were hundreds of people passing through on their way to France. The camp was a good time to share reflections, discussions, dancing and chatting. The people passing through nevertheless left, as happens every day on this cursed border. More than 100 people arrived in Briançon this weekend. Around thirty push-backs.
The anger at not being able to cross the border to continue camping in France provoked some reactions.
On the same day, Saturday, a march started in the direction of the road, catching some Italian officers by surprise as they had to run, and blocking the border for more than an hour.
The next day, Sunday, another march took place on the road from Claviere to Montgenèvre, in an attempt to reach the PAF, the headquarters of the guards protecting the border. An important device of gendarmes, with small trucks and a water cannon barred the road. The guards fired many tear gas and some stun grenades and flashballs. On the paths above, the guards that tried to get closer went keeped far.
For more than two hours the border remained closed. If no one passes, no one passes. Neither do goods or tourists, so in practice this border does not exist.
If these days someone – they say – has ’dared’ to spoil the golf course with some writing or hoeing, it does not seem like a tragedy, quite the contrary. The privatisation of this mountain for the interests of the rich few and wealthy tourists is what also leads to its militarisation. To protect this inmaginary, the scenery of the mountain villages where one can play golf in peace on the ’18-hole cross-border golf course’ owned by Lavazza and the Montgenèvre municipality and ski on the ’borderless’ slopes. Or whizzing on electric bicycles on the same trails travelled by dozens of migrants every day but more often at night, precisely because they cannot be seen. A destination for wealthy tourists cannot be a transit area for migrants. They are also building two ’water reservoirs’, stealing water from the surrounding environment, to make sure they can shoot snow in winter on these trails. Privatisation, exploitation and militarisation of the mountains go together.
The Passamontagna camp was also a time for meeting, discussion, and reasoning about the world around us and the devices of exploitation and exclusion. There were meetings that spoke of neo-colonial extractivism that pushes people to migrate, forced to leave territories massacred in the name of money. Of externalisation of borders and the creation of internal enemies. Of scafism and DIA (anti-mafia investigative directorate). Of new state and European repression mechanisms towards migrants and others. Of confrontation in the CPR/CRA struggles.
Because in a society that wants us to be increasingly individualistic and separate, we must increasingly know each other, recognise each other, confront each other, unite to fight an increasingly totalising and totalitarian system.
In Briançon, town of initial destination for all those who cross this border, the solidarity shelter Les Terrasse is overloaded. Too many people arrive, and places are always running out. This is also why a new place was opened and made public on Monday. An occupation that also wants to be a place of hospitality and a meeting place for those who fight this border, each in their own way. Support and materials are needed !
The address is 34A Avenue de la République, hopital les jeunes pousses SSR, Briançon.
A huge thank you goes to all the solidarity kitchens that fed hundreds of people over these three days and all the people who participated and made the camp possible.
But we learn a terrible news in the next days. Monday 7 agust, a young migrant was found dead on the military road from Montgenèvre to Briançon. Face down on the ground, found by a tourist on a bicycle. We still don’t know anything more.
Another death. Another victim of this border that takes the shape of the border police (PAF) deployed on the paths day and night.
The 11th, 12th, 20th, who knows. The numbers are unclear because not all deaths are made public. Officially, ten bodies have been found since 2018.
As with the other deaths, it’s clear who is responsible. It is not a random death. It is not bad luck. It is not a tourist who dies. It is yet another “migrant”, thrown off buses and trains at the border, forced to walk at night to escape through controls, chased by guards for being a migrant and undocumented, tending to be poor. On these paths the PAF carries out a constant, racist hunt towards anyone who is not white and does not look like a tourist ready to spend his money on golf courses or ski slopes turned into playground for electric bikes in summer.
And it is by bicycle, on foot or by car that the PAF lurks on the trails looking for those who do not have the good papers to cross them. A new military force has recently arrived in Montgenèvre with the aim of limiting unwanted entry even further. Hundreds guards protect this border. But the flow of people does not stop, because no net, wall or guard will ever be able to completely block the desire for freedom and the search for a better life.
But peace is difficult to find today.
Perhaps if we had been able to walk together this would not have happened. Perhaps if the Passamontagna had worked that boy would not have died.
Every cop on those paths on Saturday and Sunday has blood on his hands.
So too has blood on his hands the Prefect of Gap, who made all demonstrations and camping illegal over the weekend, and who gave orders to prevent the passage in every way.
Every cop is a border. The armed arm of a state that continues to divide, select and kill according to its political and economic interests.
Let those responsible pay dearly, here, at Montgenèvre, at Briançon, everywhere in France.
Another thought clouds our minds. We find it hard not to think about the fact that the body was found on the military road, which can be travelled on foot and also with a 4×4 car, which the guards use to carry out their patrols. It is difficult to die by accident on that road.
Already too many have died on the border running the police. Recall Blessing Matthew, a young 20-year-old Nigerian woman who died in 2018 in the Durance River while trying to escape from the gendarmes who were chasing her. Or Fahtallah, found dead in the dam near Modane, where he had ventured after being turned back. Or 14-year-old Aullar, who died crushed by the train he could not catch in Salbertrand, bound for the border. Or all the others who froze to death or fell after being turned back at the border and venturing onto the highest paths.
Militarisation kills on these montains.
The PAF, the gendarmes, the French state, Europe. Here the responsible for this death.
The border is everywhere, in every border inside and outside Europe, where perhaps it is most recognisable, but it is also in every street, square or station where the police check documents, it is in the detention centres for repatriation, it is in every Frontex office scattered across Europe, it is in every arms factory or surveillance device that is produced in Europe and given to the border police.
Hence an invitation, to act each in his own way, each in his own place, against borders.
AGAINST ALL BORDERS, THE STATES THAT CREATE THEM AND THE UNIFORMS THAT PROTECT THEM