21 African migrants were detained by French police Saturday after they surged into the Pantheon mausoleum in Paris to push their claims for regularized status. The detainees will be held pending investigation into potentially "violating legislation on foreigners," the local prefecture said.
French authorities on Friday arrested 37 people after around 700 undocumented migrants belonging to the "Black Vests" movement stormed the Pantheon in Paris. 21 demonstrators were detained on charges of "violating legislation on foreigners" the following day. One demonstrator was also detained on a charge of violent behavior against a police officer.
The undocumented migrants had staged the Pantheon protest to call for the right to stay in France. "We will remain here until the last one of us has been given documents," the text on a leaflet being handed out at the demonstration declared.
The men chanted "black vests" in reference to the recent "yellow vest" anti-government protest against high fuel charges in France. The "Black Vests" is a Paris-based migrant association whose members describe themselves as "the undocumented, the voiceless and the faceless of the French Republic."
Demands and reactions
Other rights organizations present at the protest voiced their support for the "Black Vests" cause. "Many people have been living without rights for years," a member of "Droits Devant" ("Rights Forward") said. "We are holding this occupation to call on the prime minister to make an exceptional regularization of the situation."
After the migrants were brought out of the Pantheon by riot police Friday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe tweeted that "France is a state governed by the rule of law," which implies "respect for the rules that apply to the right of residence, respect for public monuments and for the memory they represent."
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen called the occupation unacceptable. She tweeted: "In France, the only future for any illegal immigrant should be getting kicked out, because that's the law."
The "Black Vests" are known for staging headline-grabbing protests in support of the undocumented. In June, they briefly occupied the headquarters of the Paris-based catering and property Elior Group; and in May, its activists occupied a terminal at the city's Charles De Gaulle airport against "Air France's collaboration" in the deportation of undocumented migrants.
The Pantheon in Paris is the final resting place of France's greatest non-military luminaries, including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. It is also a popular tourist destination.
With material from Reuters, AFP