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The many lives of Louise Michel

Historicity is not forgetfulness, but deviation. It is recollection, but not submission. … More than a homage to a past time, we endeavour to recover, to redeem, the moment of truth of those crushed rebellions, the possibles never realised, condemned to oblivion.

Diego Sztulwark, La ofensiva sensible

Originally published by Autonomies.

This is the M.V. Louise Michel, An independent high speed lifeboat that patrols the Mediterranean

It might seem incredible there is need for a homemade emergency vehicle in one of Europe’s busiest waterways, but there is. The migrant crisis means that European states are instructing their Coastguard not to answer distress calls from ‘non-Europeans’ leaving desperate people to drift helplessly at sea. To make matters worse authorities prevent other boats from providing assistance, arresting crews and impounding boats that do.

The Louise Michel is a former French Navy boat we’ve customised to perform search and rescue. She is as agile as she is pink. Measuring 30 meters in length and capable of over 28 knots, she was bought with proceeds from the sale of Banksy artwork – who then decorated her with a fire extinguisher. She is captained and crewed by a team of rescue professionals drawn from across Europe. She runs on a flat hierarchy and a vegan diet.

Our mission

To uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice. We onboard the Louise Michel believe we are all individuals, nationality should not make a difference to what rights one has and how we treat each other. We answer the SOS call of all those in distress, not just to save their souls – but our own.

How To support

The M.V. LouiseMichel needs

  • Funding to do this work, fight legal cases and replace impounded equipment.
  • Help spreading the word about these inhumane policies. #searescueisnotacrime

The people at sea are not unlucky casualties of the elements. This crisis is not a natural disaster. It is created by political decisions and a failure of humanity. It cannot be solved by lifeboats. If we want to sustainably stop the drowning we have to stop forcing people onto these boats. So if you want to contribute – speak up against racism, join the movements for climate justice – take any kind of action to defend global respect for all forms of life, near or far.

How societies manage migration is a complex issue that involves us all. But it should never be one that casually dispenses the death penalty.

Search and Rescue

Solidarity and Resistance

For further information, see the M.V. Louise Michel website.

Louise Michel


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