The streets around the CEDRE are eerily empty. On the 5th october, a thousand policemen were sent by the new chief of Police of Paris to dismantle the « crack camp » known as Forceval, at Porte de la Villette, a controversial move which was done without consulting local politicians. Since then, there has been a heavy police presence near the CEDRE and the little street market selling corncobs, peanuts or home made dishes has also been swept away. The users of the crack camp were not provided with anywhere to go, and they are still reportedly hiding out in nearby streets and hallways. They also come into the CEDRE, and there have been a number of incidents, which have led to the team reluctantly deciding to engage door staff to filter who comes in.
In this atmosphere, over the last two weeks, the Community Table has continued to function, alongside theatre and gardening workshops. There are less people in the space, but we have noticed that there is a constant movement around the table, and that people who otherwise might not have given themselves the time – including volunteers – have spent long periods absorbed in creating.
One young man built an elaborate building which he perfected before filling it with animals and plants at the last minute. Another made and remade several versions of a house, pulling it down and patiently rebuilding. There were playful games with constructions and anagrams, flower slides and dictated texts. The local mayor came for a visit with his aides.
Around the sides of the room, other people just sat, exhausted. One man, who had been sleeping rough for a week, alone, told us, his eyes shining with tears, that it was his 24th birthday. He handed out chocolates, and we printed up a photo of his mother. Small acts of kindness, but, in this context, so important.
Kate France and Naomi Press