For a year now, the pandemic has disrupted the lives of billions of people, and in the dystopian world where the huge increase in surveillance and control systems is legitimised by the doctrine of war on the virus, where everything is illegal except going to work, the evictions do not stop.
Two and a half years after it opened, the Casa Cantoniera Occupata, the self-managed shelter in Oulx, was evicted.
Inside the House was full of people: the pandemic has never stopped those on the move without the privilege of having a place to stay.
Occupied in December 2018, it was a place created to give solidarity to people who wanted to cross the French-Italian border at the Montgenèvre Pass. A place of struggle and self-organisation, against all borders and military and political devices that seek to control and select.
A free refuge for all those who believe that the earth has no borders or masters, and that everyone should have the freedom to choose where and how to live. An occupation that has made active and daily solidarity its base, and that has tried to get in the way of those racist laws that make borders and their controllers a cursed and murderous line. A place that has supported a precise direction of struggle, that has indicated a practical tool to anyone who wanted to actively fight the segregationist policies of this murderous Europe.
In our Alps, people are forced to walk on high mountain paths, hiding only because they lack the ‘good’ piece of paper, while goods and tourists, for whom this border is invisible, pass by quietly. Just as in the forests in Croatia and Bosnia, where the police beat and steal, butchering people’s feet to make them stop walking. From the Tamarasset desert to the Aegean Sea and across the Mediterranean, where a conscious genocide is taking place, with prisons and patrol boats paid for by the European Union, where people continue to die while governments are busy blocking rescue boats and repressing all forms of solidarity. Part of this genocide is here, in our mountains, and continues from day to day.
The House was evicted on Tuesday 23 March; they arrived at 7 am: the usual parade of police, carabinieri, digos (political police). It took them over an hour and a half to get in.
More than 60 people, including many families with minors, were let out and taken away.
The contribution of the fire brigade was fundamental: they positioned the stairs to get in through the roof and helped the digos to break through the protective barricades that they could not open. The eviction also saw the collaboration of the Red Cross, which set up a tent in front of the House to make anti-covidium swabs.
The “undocumented” people and their families were taken to dormitories in Susa (in the nuns’ convent), Bardonecchia (at the Alveare association) and Oulx (at the Salesian refuge). Those without families were taken to the police station in Bardonecchia for identification and then let go.
Now, at the shelter of the Salesians in Oulx, nobody can enter if not “authorised”. Police and digos are very present and oppressive in the whole border area. In the village, a few trucks of Celere (riot police) are stationed. The mayor has expressly asked the citizens to report any ‘suspicious’ person wandering around Oulx to the police, after the much desired eviction.
The responsibility for this eviction is entirely political.
From the prefecture to the municipality of Oulx (the eviction was requested from the first day of occupation and the mayor Andrea Terzolo, elected almost two years ago, made us part of his election campaign). From the states, Italian and French, to their armed arms, various police and digos. From Anas (the owner of dozens of houses abandoned for decades all over Italy – as well as the building in Oulx – which immediately filed a complaint against the occupants) to the petty national journalism, which has been busy defaming that place in every possible way. They all played an active role in criminalising this experience and making its closure materially possible.
And it makes us even angrier to know that Anas, which dragged 24 of us (plus the 13 comrades in solidarity present inside the house when the cops entered) into a trial for occupation that ironically began on the morning of the eviction, has put 100 houses for sale. There is talk of converting them into bars, restaurants and charging stations for electric cars. People will be happy to be free to travel wherever they want, to drink coffee and recharge their luxury cars on a road stained with the blood of those who have to walk at night, hiding from the beatings of the cops and from the clutches of a reception system that fattens many pockets on the skin of the people.
Now hundreds of thousands of euros will also arrive to the border municipalities for the “management of migrants”, a new merchandise. At least 600,000 euros to Bardonecchia, plus who knows how much money to the municipality of Claviere.
And on the other side of the explicitly repressive face, the ‘invisible’ responsibilities.
Even during the day of the eviction, Rainbow for a Africa, played its role as a good association providing shelter to the migrants thrown out of the terrible anarchic shelter: the same NGO that for three years has been working between Bardonecchia and Oulx to give an institutional response to “migratory flows”, trying to discourage departures by offering unreal solutions of a reception that is only a business; the same one that recently won a tender to make tampons in Turin and tries to find legitimacy even inside occupied spaces.
We know that organisations of this kind rely on volunteers who are only trying to help, and who do so with their hearts. But the functioning and the political choices made by this NGO have specific consequences, precise responsibilities, and we don’t agree, and we want to remember that. Moreover, the president, Paolo Narcisi, has always defamed us.
And in the same way we reject the falsehoods said by the archbishop of Turin, Nosiglia, that as the bishop of Susa some years ago, Confalonieri, who is now calling for Catholic solidarity,
Both men of that Church which on the one hand pretends to talk about help and solidarity and then applies itself to allowing evictions (the trial for the occupied Chez Jesus is going on now).
In conclusion: the eviction of the Casa Cantoniera is part of a global repression against freedom of movement, against places of solidarity and occupied spaces where people can organise in freedom. Everywhere in Europe spaces of struggle are under repressive attack by the states. The militarisation of borders and the normalisation of push backs and repatriations inside and outside European borders is fed by the increasingly racist and fascist sentiments in society and politics. Meanwhile, those who continue to provide solidarity to people on the move and refuse to enter into this racist and normative logic are constantly under attack.
On this frontier, numerous trials are underway for aiding and abetting illegal immigration (two major trials in the coming months on the French side). Many people are under investigation for initiatives, actions, occupations, marches on the border on both sides.
The repression against the people passing through is manifested in a visible increase in militarisation, in ever tighter violence, and now in controls even in the facilities where they are housed.
Yet people continue and will continue to pass through, because the desire and determination to decide where to live will never stop.
We would like to thank all those who have been in solidarity with this experience over the years, from the Susa Valley – which despite being forced to host this infamous border, but where we have found many friends and sisters who have shared this struggle with us – and from every corner of the world.
The need to rebuild real solidarity is great. Everything is needed, there is a need to reorganise. Another open assembly will be called, also in an attempt to give an answer to the ever increasing repression.
We are also looking for a collective vehicle, be it a van or a big car, to continue to be present on the border. If anyone has a (cheap) vehicle or useful materials, please write to us.
Every contribution is welcome.
Always against every border.
We will be back.
Some and some enemies of borders
The following text is an attempt by some of the people that were involved in the occupied Casa Cantoniera to analyse the eviction of our space and reflect on the past years of our presence in this part of the border.
Now, more than ever we want to call everyone to come to the border in order to show that the eviction of our spaces, the repression of people on the move and people in solidarity with them, will not stop us from expressing and exercising our resistance. We are trying to regroup and organize presence in the border. We don’t know yet which form this will take, because it depends on what is going to happen in the next days and weeks. If you are interested and want to stay updated, write an email to chezjesoulx [at] riseup [dot] net (pgp key on request).
In the early morning of March 23rd, the cops along with firefighters and certain NGOs evicted the occupied Casa Cantoniera in Oulx, a small village at the italian-french border where thousands of people have transitted in recent years. The 13 comrades that were present in the house during the eviction have been accused of occupation, while over 60 people in passage have been forcibly tested for coronavirus, identified, fingerprinted, and then transported to different structures.
The way this eviction has been executed demonstrates once again all the contradictions of the european* migration policy. The repression of free movement is only possible with the complicity of so called «humanitarian» institutions. While the cops are the visible face of state repression, humanitarian organizations are used (and complacently so) as the friendly face of this repression.
The Red Cross and the association «Rainbow 4 Africa» have provided the infrastructure of transport and processing for the over 60 people in passage without consent that were present in the house during the eviction, shipping them off in different directions while backtracking them away from the border. The firefighters assisted the cops with breaking the barricades of the house and enabled them to sneak into the house from the roof windows using their equipment. Without the help of these institutions, the eviction of the Casa Cantoniera would have been much more difficult and time consuming (and, thus, visibile to the public.)
It is not the first time that the Red Cross has collaborated with the police – at this border or in other places. There have been various occasions in which its members were repeatedly present on the border, trying (in vain) to persuade people in passage not to cross instead of providing something useful or allowing them to decide for themselves. They often were accomplices to police intervention, aiding them to carry out push backs. On several occasions the Red Cross has consciously exploited people’s trust in their institution while openly collaborating with the police.
The association Rainbow 4 Africa has a long history of trying to collaborate with social centres and have repeatedly tried to force their presence on the Casa Cantoniera, while at the same time supporting the CPR of Torino with medical staff (in which the neglect of the physical well-being of people imprisoned is daily routine) and providing medical infrastructure for the eviction of the house. When the protest on eviction day arrived at the dormitory of the Salesiani in order to bring solidarity to the families that were brought there, we realized that the main gate of the structure has been locked since their arrival, preventing them from exiting. This shows once again that their perception of the people they are directing their “services” to is not one of equal free individuals but of manageable and confinable objects.
For over two years the Casa Cantoniera has attempted to create a space of practical solidarity and resistance against the border and the oppression and violence that comes with it. A space that refused to participate in the «management» of migration, where those on whose backs our privileges and wealth are built are not treated as objects, as dangerous delinquents nor infantilized victims, but as individual subjects that are able to make their own decisions.
The border is evidently permeable to the continuous passage of money, tourism and commerce, but not to people lacking the “adequate” piece of paper. Our aim was never to provide a service to people but to build an inclusive struggle with people that are oppressed by the system of capitalism and state in different ways.
A lot of people who passed by the Casa Cantoniera participated actively in the management of daily tasks. The fact that this house has been open to people without pause for 828 days was only possible because we collectively compiled our knowledge and skills, maximizing possibilities by adapting and appreciating the differences in our capabilities. Sharing through our anger and frustration in common but also passing moments of affection and joy helped us to get stronger and more determined in our opposition against the violent reality of this world.
In the occupied house people have shared their stories, dreams and struggles among each other, finding strength in not being alone. Sometimes these moments consisted of simply sharing a coffee in the morning, passing a platter of something delicious and fried to share during discussions, dancing to pop music from all over the world while preparing a collective meal, four different people offering their last respective filter, paper, tobacco, or lighter for a much needed cigarette…
This opposition that is created, is not merely in contrast to the systemic oppression of the border – parallel to it, it seeks to build an alternative reality.
That house has been a place where we confronted many forms of oppression:
There was a self-organized garden,to rethink our way of relating to food and nature with regards to consumerism.
There was a space reserved for women and non-binary/gender nonconforming individuals, because the system of patriarchy is dismantled in part by validating and giving space.
There was a library with books and self-published texts in various languages, from comic books and novels to self care and DIY, aiming for a radical** alternative which demands constant reflection, self-criticism and expansion of knowledge.
While we have on some occasions accepted material support from NGOs, we have never subjected ourselves to conform to their paradigms and we have always tried to self-sustain the house with the financial and material support of people that share or support our ideas.
Obviously, in a world that is based on violence and in which all of us have internalized dynamics of oppression and certain stereotypes, it is impossible to not make mistakes. Many people that have passed the house have survived trauma and loss. We don’t want to deny that the house has seen episodes of violence and that we have made mistakes in certain situations, but in order to create something outside of the logic of profit and domination, we have to practice and learn from the mistakes that have been done in the past, although we have not always succeeded in doing so.
We are disgusted by the way these episodes have been used as a way to gut an alternative approach, as if to prove that another world is not possible; in fact it is brutally ironic that these episodes of violence are a direct result of the oppressive systems that the nation states are so keenly upholding.
From the beginning of the project, lots of speculation and misinformation has been spread about this house. Right after the eviction had been carried out, photos of inside the house (which obviously was in a terrible state post bombardment) had been shared, instrumentalizing it in order to confirm their narrative of the « dirty squatters and wrong doers ». We refuse to speak with journalists, because we don’t want to be portrayed according to the stereotyped idea of the « anarchist », instrumentalized for making profit out of spectationalism.
So now this tiny space of autodetermination which gave us the possibility to breathe for a moment submerged in a world of harsh policies and racialized laws, is gone…
The eviction of the Casa Cantoniera is just a part of global repression against freedom of movement, solidarity structures and occupied free spaces in general. All over europe* long existing occupied spaces have been evicted in the last years, while attempts of creating new spaces and struggles are instantly met with the full force of repressive state organs. The militarization of borders and the normalization of push backs at internal and external european* borders only feeds ever growing racist sentiments and the fascization of society. At the same time those who refuse to buy into this logic and continue to support people on the move are continuously being attacked.
In Calais food distribution has been illegalized, in other places people are prevented from practicing their solidarity individually and are being forced to register with an NGO, in hungary* all forms of support for people on the move have been illegalized since years. The aim is on the one hand to create conditions that will make migration as difficult as possible, and act as a deterrent to prevent others from trying to make the journey. On the other hand, it is sending the message that humanity and support is only possible when herded into a state-approved method and context.
However, the repression of solidarity structures and the fortification of borders will not prevent people from exercising their will and need to migrate. Migration is as old as humanity and as long as this world is divided into parts of those that are exploited and those that are profiting from this exploitation- as long as wars and conflicts are fuelled by the need of capitalism to produce profit and the need of nation states to expand their power and influence- people will continue to migrate from one place to another. And as long as this inequality exists between the ‘global south and the global north’ of the world, people will continue to try to come to europe*. And as long as europe’s* wealth is built on this inequality, its nation states and institutions can’t give another answer to migration than militarization and violence.
The eviction and repression of the Casa Cantoniera will not stop people to pass this part of the border. It will only lead to them being forced to use ever more dangerous routes, to more people desperate, and to the arrival of smugglers that make profit off the misery of other people.
They can take our spaces, they can criminalize and imprison us, but they cannot bury our ideas and they cannot silence the truth, and that truth is this:
As long as the world is organized according to the principle of domination -of nature by humans, or of one kind of human over the other, or of an economic system based on the exploitation of resources and human lives- we cannot be free. We need and we will find other ways of expressing our opposition, of building and fighting for spaces where we can learn, create, live in freedom.
*names of states are left without capital letter on purpose
** we use the word radical in its original sense, meaning that we want to get to the “root” of the problem instead of just reforming what we believe to be fundamentally dysfunctional.
Migrants related groups https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/topic/sans-papiers
Some squats in Italy: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/IT/squated/squat
Some of groups (social centers, collectives, squats) in Italy: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/IT
Events in Italy: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/IT