At 10 o’clock in the morning, the camp is asleep, save for the scattering of individuals who are coming back after a night of trying to get to the UK. This morning, the police had come into the camp before we arrived and had fired teargas, and everyone was up and about.
I bumped into three kids from the children’s centre, and they gestured for me to follow. A young girl pointed towards a plot of gravel outside her family’s shelter. Another one of the children – a boy less than two years of age – bent down to pick up what they were all pointing at: the black remains of a teargas canister. Outside the family’s shelter, there were four. A girl imitated the firing of tear gas. Another picked up a long stick and pretended to be hitting someone, explaining with few words what they had witnessed the police doing less than an hour earlier. The first girl put her wrists together and said, “Like this, like this” – someone had been arrested.
2.30pm. Lunch time. We had just gotten our plates of noodles and lentil soup from the food truck when other volunteers started coming to us, saying that the police were coming back and that we should make sure that the children are either with their parents or with us. We gathered the children who were in sight and walked away from the main path leading through the camp. Two other volunteers and I sat down beneath some sheltered trees and watched as a squad of roughly fifty police officers, with helmets down, shields up, and armed with tear gas guns, marched into the camp and past where we were sitting. Throughout the next hour, we kept seeing groups of police officers leading men and women out of the camp. Everything was relatively quiet.
We decided that we had to open the school again after the police had left. Although we didn’t expect many of the children to leave their shelters, many came. They watched Pink Panther. They played foosball. They solved a 3D puzzle of the Eiffel Tower. They could be children.