On July 10 2020, in front of associations, collectives, squatters and unions, while the préfet was reassuring about the squats situation during the summer, and was only talking about the “problematic” situation of the former Institut Bouisson Bertrand, he was actually preparing evictions for the 23rd. Evictions that affected two buildings in the city centre, putting around 50 vulnerable people and families on the street, and others in detention in CRA. The generous solution provided: 3 nights in a hotel and a return to the violence of the tent in the street.
Knowing the CV of the current préfet of the Hérault, Jacques Witkowski, we had not believed in his promise of the 10th, and therefore decided to squat this building owned by the council which had remained empty and walled up for too long, since 15 July, in order to rehouse the people that Jacques put outside during the heat wave, and during the biggest health crisis we have experienced since the beginning of the century, thus directly endangering the people concerned and the population of Montpellier.
For more than a week now, we have been residents of this place and we intend to rehouse these people who were put on the streets 3 days ago.
The eviction of squats does not solve the problems of precariousness, it displaces it by making it invisible and by breaking the solidarity that is created in the collectively occupied places.
Let’s not let the Prefecture destroy lives.
OKUPA Y RESISTE!
On July 10th, date of the end of the winter truce, a collective composed of several human rights associations (LDH, DAL, Cimade), squats collectives and unions (FSU, CGT, Solidaires) had asked, during a meeting with the Prefecture, for a moratorium on squat evictions in Montpellier.
During this meeting, the sub-prefect Philippe Nucho would have announced that the priority of the Prefecture was the eviction of the squat “Bouisson-Bertrand” in Euromédecine, held by the association Solidarité Partagée and welcoming more than 200 people. Pressed in particular by the representatives of the collectives of small squats, including the CSA Bonnard, and of the trade unions, the sub-prefect committed himself, according to several sources present, not to put “families with children” on the street.
A betrayal by the prefecture?
Now, as reported by a number of regional media and our comrades from Le Poing, the Casa del Sol, and especially the CSA Bonnard, which was hosting more than fifty people including families, five miners, were evicted by a police intervention on Wednesday 22 July. Strange sense of priority. Ten of them, in an irregular situation, were taken in charge by the border police, some of them placed in administrative detention centres. In a press release, Prefect Jacques Witkowski assumes these expulsions and justifies them: “these illegal occupations place the people who have settled there in undignified sanitary and social conditions”.
Mr. Witkowski therefore proposed to the evicted people and their children four nights in a hotel before they found themselves on the street, a good example of the sense of dignity of the State, which had found it convenient to be able to rest on the squats during the confinement, while the emergency accommodation on our territory was full to bursting point and the occupations had multiplied. The Prefect, as usual, no doubt considered that these few nights in a hotel were a viable alternative accommodation solution.
While the sub-prefect made a commitment to the collective on 10 July, can we see in the Prefect’s spin an attempt to discredit Mr. Nucho, who was already serving under his predecessor Pierre Pouëssel? And to allow a bit of housekeeping in the former executive, starting by disavowing the word of his subordinate? Or one of those errors of internal communication so representative of the state administrative bureaucracy …?
How to explain this about-face to the militant circles received less than a fortnight before, and which was done at the price of the stability of the existence of these families? Women, men and children, who did not expect to be evicted from one day to the next, in the midst of a health crisis and a period of heat peaks… In any case, the collective has already contacted the Prefecture again, waiting for an explanation.
Realistic and responsive squat collectives
In any case, some activists, not very confident in the Prefecture’s commitment, had anticipated the eviction of the CSA Bonnard, and proceeded on July 15 to occupy a new building, located at 1 rue Saint-Vincent-de-Paul near Boutonnet and unoccupied for several years, in order to rehouse the families. The announcement of this occupation was made today to the town hall, owner of the premises, by the League for Human Rights (LDH 34), and many activists and supporters came in late morning to reinforce them.
The national police, on information from the municipal authorities, took over the issue and came in the afternoon to recognize the occupation. After the findings of the forensic police, the officers prepared to receive an intervention order. However, it did not come. For several hours, the officers did not seem to know in which legal framework they were acting, and doubts remained about the existence of a possible complaint by the municipality. Activists and police officers waited for a long time, one in the shade and the others under the overwhelming sun.
Delafosse doesn’t want to do the job
Faced with the media coverage of the recent evictions, the city council, as the owner, did not want the eviction to take place, as Mr. Delafosse had the good sense to spare himself a bad publicity stunt at the beginning of his term of office by alienating the associations and collectives that fight against poor housing in Montpellier, and whose action is crucial. Indeed, the demand for social housing in the department has risen from 14,000 to 40,000 in just a few years. According to the Abbé Pierre Foundation, around 5,000 people could be evicted in the metropolis.
The collective that carried out the occupation has obtained an appointment with the municipal services next Monday to consider a perpetuation of the occupation, at least until proposals for decent housing are issued for these undocumented people or those awaiting regularization. The new president of the metropolis and mayor of Montpellier could kill two birds with one stone if he manages to find a permanent rehousing for these people among the more than 10,000 vacant housing units in the city.
While the Prefecture recently announced that it had removed 145 of the 320 housing places created as a result of the Covid 19 crisis, which were already largely insufficient, it is estimated that around 4,000 people are homeless or live in shantytowns in Montpellier.
For more than a week now, several families requesting asylums from Africa or Eastern Europe have been living in a communal building after the eviction of the CSA in rue Bonnard on 23 July. Faced with the lies of the prefecture and the negligence of the public authorities – offering only a few nights in a hotel with no longer-term solutions – the street is organizing itself to make up for the shortcomings of the state. The occupiers have recently appealed for donations and solidarity to renovate the place, and help has already been received from the neighbourhood. An appeal that Le Poing relays here.
“The prefecture lies, the street acts”
Simple and effective, this slogan, which was displayed under a window of the building when it was inaugurated, perfectly illustrates the housing situation for people in need of asylums and precarious housing, on the eve of a probable second wave of Coronavirus.
On July 10, the prefect of the Hérault district, Jacques Witkowski, was reassuring about the situation of squats in Montpellier during the summer during a meeting with squatters, associations, unions and other activists.
Commitments almost immediately betrayed: on July 23rd, he had families living in an occupied building on Bonnard Street evicted, as well as the Centre d’Actions Sociales Autogéré (CASA), a few meters away.
In our paper on the evictions, Le Poing deplored the divisions within the city’s squats and the relative absence of activists during the evictions: “their dissensions, their internal wars, result in a culture of resentment and grudges, reproaches and recriminations. ». Behind these sentences, however factual, lies an error of analysis on our part at that time.
For it is clear that despite its internal divisions, the street – not trusting the prefectural discourse – knows how to unite in the face of urgency in order to act. Indeed, the building 1 rue Saint-Vincent-de-Paul was occupied since July 15 (according to a communiqué from the occupiers), that is to say 8 days before the eviction from the Rue Bonnard.
The political and militant response to the prefect’s lies is strong and marked. This opening allowed several families of asylum seekers to be relocated. “About fifty people” according to the person who showed us around.
Call for donations and solidarity
A young girl of about 12 years old, from Eastern Europe, serves as our guide while her family works on some renovations:
“This is our room, you can take a picture of it”.
Several corridors lead to other rooms on both sides of the landing, and a staircase leads to a common room on the second floor.
“Upstairs is the common room, there is a kitchen. That’s where the meetings are held. We have water and electricity. » .
She assures that relations with the neighbourhood – the Marie Caizergues children’s home – are rather peaceful. “They’re nice, it’s going well. They brought us a few things – food and hygiene products – and they leave us an outdoor space.
Around us, cleaning and work, because the building has been abandoned for a long time. In addition to these time-consuming repairs, there is also a certain amount of stress linked to the previous eviction and its share of uncertainties and temporary hotel rooms with no lasting solution for the future.
The occupiers are therefore calling for solidarity for small renovation works.
An appeal for donations was also written on a banner hanging from a window: “water, food, hygiene products, bedding and mattresses”, household necessities and money for the renovations to be done.
To give a hand, go to 1 Rue Saint-Vincent-de-Paul!
Thursday, July 30, early afternoon. The sun is crushing the corner of the streets of Abbé de l’épée and Saint-Vincent-de-Paul with its heat. In the middle of the decrepit facade of this long abandoned building, an old door, walled up and covered with the image of a Pierrot de la Lune. Above, a banner takes the wind: “Call for donations”, with a list of basic necessities.
Successful emergency relocation
It’s been almost a week since the declaration of the opening of this new squat was made to the public authorities and the press, following the evictions affecting the CSA Bonnard. Squatters have made room for the families of asylum seekers from Africa or Eastern Europe, and little by little life is getting organized. La Mule du Pape is welcomed by E., a Georgian who seems to be in charge of the organisation of the place, which is mainly oriented towards the reception of families.
Very affable although interrupted in the middle of plumbing works, he makes us go around the owner. For the moment, between fifty and sixty people have already moved into the building, including about twenty children of all ages. Many residents are busy with minor renovations, cleaning and tidying up. In particular, there is a need to ensure that children who have been living in an abandoned building for more than five years are not exposed to any risks. Rooms are divided into sectors corresponding to the geographical origins of the residents. The kitchen is already operational. The courtyard welcomes children’s games.
An appeal for donations and solidarity
The rapidity with which the premises were filled testifies to the reality of the precarious situation of migrants and asylum seekers in Montpellier. According to testimonies, the transition from the CSA Bonnard to this new building has been a source of stress and uncertainty, and the placement in hotel rooms for only four nights, an illusory solution although safe for the children. Since their installation, they have benefited from the solidarity of neighbours who have provided them with food and hygiene products.
However, between the lack of resources and money, and the time spent renovating the premises, the inhabitants still live in a certain precariousness. This is why an appeal for donations and solidarity has been launched: water, food, hygiene products, bedding and mattresses, household or DIY products, money… Anything that can be used is welcome, as well as solidarity help with renovation work.
Some squats in Montpellier https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/city/montpellier/country/FR/squated/squat
Some evicted squats: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/city/montpellier/field_active/1/squated/evicted
Some groups in Montpellier https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/city/montpellier/country/FR
Events in Montpellier https://radar.squat.net/en/events/city/Montpellier
Refugees related groups in France https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/FR/topic/sans-papiers
Some squats in France: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/FR/squated/squat
Groups (collectives, social centres, squats) in France: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/FR
Events in France: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/FR