Harmondsworth, 8 April 2006. Around 300 people from London, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Brighton, Reading and Cardiff demonstrated at the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres near Heathrow to ensure that "those inside will hear our voices and know that they are not alone." The call out for the demonstration was made by London No Borders, the Campaign to Close Heathrow Detention Centres, London Against Detention, and The Square Occupied Social Centre in solidarity with the Noborder actions in Australia [see the NCADC report].
There was a large police presence and they prevented detainees and demonstrators from establishing a line of sight: the demo was not allowed to take place in the field where detainees could see it from their windows. Security guards also prevented detainees from accessing the centre's exercise yard and didn't even allow them to approach the windows. Some detainees were reportedly beaten up when they protested against these restrictions. In response, some 150 detainees in Colnbrook have gone on hunger strike [Read press release on updated situation in Colnbrook].
Many phone calls from detainees were passed on to the demonstrators via a small sound system. Former detainees also gave live testimonies of their own experience in detention [Sekindi's speech]. Meanwhile, about 40 people managed to make their way around the side of Colnbrook where detainees could see and hear them from the windows, and they spent a long time communicating with people inside, before being moved on by the police.
In Glasgow, around 300 asylum seekers, refugees, sans-papiers, Unity activists, and their supporters marched from the Home Office Reporting Centre in Ibrox to a rally in the Carnival Arts Centre in town calling for the right to work and an end to deportations. On Monday, 10th April, the All African Women's Group and other organisations protested outside Communications House in London in solidarity with international actions for immigration and asylum rights, and against detention.
In Manchester, a demo and rally [more] were held on 15 April under the slogan "Manchester: city of detention, destitution and deportation". On the same day, the offices of Ethiopian Airlines in London were targetted by anti-deportation activists. Their locks were glued and anti-deportation slogans were painted over their office and in the surrounding area.
The main demo as seen from pavement walking towards the footpath
The demonstration was first agreed on at the UK-wide Noborders gathering in London last March. It was also agreed to hold similar actions at various detention centres throughout the country in the future.
Many people with experience as detainees, from Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Uganda, Congo, Ivory Coast and other places were present. Other groups, such as the Rhythms of Resistance samba band and a choir from Women in Black, were also involved.
The authorities were eager to interrupt contact between detainees and demonstrators. Before the demonstration, both Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention camps announced that visiting hours were to be shortened. According to the authorities, the detainees were upset and afraid during the last demo, claiming that they didn't understand it was for their benefit. There were also concerns for the safety of visitors who might get caught up in the demonstration or feel threatened.
The demonstration itself was prevented from taking place as planned, in a line of sight of the windows of the detention centre. Demonstrators had to converge at the gates of Harmondsworth, where they could not be seen by detainees. The reason given was concern for local residents (in a row of houses next to a loud dual carriageway!), who, according to the police, complained about the noise at the last demo.
At the same time, security guards inside both detention centres prevented detainees from going outside the building or near the windows where they could see the demo. Some were forced back into their cells violently. In protest, some of the detainees have gone on hunger strike, starting from lunch time on that day.
During the demo, Indymedia was testing a new way of sending text reports and photos from mobile phones straight to the newswire [see this report, for example]. Indymedia dispatch lines were open from 9am to about 3pm. The result was the timeline. The reports were also broadcast on rampART radio [1,2,3,4, audio reports].
asylum is not a crime
phonecalls from detainees inside
the Samba Band playing
the Samba Band accompanied by pots and pans
detention centres: barbed-wire prisons
more cop porn
CCTV hanging from a crane to watch the demo
imposing Section 14
X X X is my name.
God Bless you all for all the good work.
We are so proud of you all, everybody was very Happy and so exited.
Now we know at least you are there for us.
May God be with you and guide you in all your endeavour now and forever more.
Please do your best for us to see this demonstrations in the News.
posted by Chiara
A man has been put in segregation in Colnbrook because accused to be the leader of the hungertstrike - which is not true. He has been put in room 40, a small cell.
He has no access to a phone and only can be reached through switchboard.
They took him during the night when all detainees are locked in their cells.
According to the detanees themselves more than half refused lunch everywhere in Colnbrook, in all 4 wings; more than 35% refused dinner as well and they are talking of having a week without food.
If you want to support contact:
in the "pen"
cops bringing back people from the "bubble"
a detainee on hungerstrike
What on earth were the authorities expecting - that we would try and ransack the place and free the prisoners, sorry, detainees?! Haven't the Met got better things to do? Presumably they must have caught all their burglers, rapists, muggers, murderers, people without TV licences etc :0(
Gregor Samsa (Reading, Berks)