At our arrival the police was already very organised there. A paper wrote by Peter Neyroud, chief officer of Thames Valley Police was distributed to everybody who was entering the little alley to Campsfield. It was a brilliant piece of rethoric, which presented outright repression under the (too) usual heading of "public order". It stated that a public assembly in front of Campsfield "may result in serious public disorder; serious damage; serious disruption". Furthermore it restricted the possible number of participants - 300 - and the space of the demonstration, enclosed in a "barriered area", sufficiently far away from the detainees as to make it extremely difficult ( if not impossible ) for the refugees to hear the noise and the support of those gathered outside. As though this was not enough, the text ended with an open threat: "failure to comply with the said imposed conditions may result in arrest".
As the public assembly began, consisting of a series of short speeches both by activists and former detainess, the policed hesitated on the proposal of letting 20 people reach the buildings. This was eventually agreed upon.
Speaker from very different backgrounds talked to an equally heterogenous crowd of approximately 200 people ( my estimate ). However, some key ideas emerged homogenously in almost all of their talks- the unnecessary nature of the government's strict measures imposed on the asylum seekers, the several cases of harassment and violence reported within the detention center, the denial of basic human rights that this center represents, the hipocritical policy u-turn of the labour government, which first announced the closure of the site in February 2002 and then, this october, decided on the contrary to expand it. After the speeches the samba band, joining young people from oxford and london played, its rithms to give some moral support to the detainees.
At 2 pm the crowd moved to Oxford. The small pedestrian zone in front of Boswell on Broad street was the destination. But before this was reached, another initmadatory act by the police was to occur. Some policemen gathered in front of the doors of the two buses, stopping the exit of the people inside. After few minutes of confusion, the- alleged- reason for this was exlained: some new restricions on the demo.
Apparently the police usually feels that the public order is so threatend by a small group of people ( now even reduced by some units ), carrying, as most dangerous weapons, some drums.
On Broad street another exhibition of the Samba Band took place, amidst a big crowd which was quickly builind up, attracted by the music, which could be heard from far away. Beside this informative leaflets were ditributed, in order to raise people awareness about Campsfield.
Up to 184 detainees are still held in Campsfield, behind the fences of a b-category prison, in a centre whose conditions have been condemned by three successive Chief Inspectors of HM Inspectorate of prisons and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. And up to 10.000 people have been imprisoned there in the years, refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo, Nigeria, Algeria, Turkey, people who have being denied their rights in their home Countries but found an harsh treatment in our supposedly democratic, tollerant western world too.
The campaign to close Campsfield is trying to change this, the former detainess are trying to change this, today was meant to be a step toward the end of it.
If people want more info try www.closecampsfield.org.uk and www.barbedwirebritain.org.uk