Tense moments were experienced with the French gendarme at one point but violent incidents were avoided. Activists from the small far-right group, Generation Identitaire, attempted to seal off the Col de l'Echelle, a 1,762m-high pass between Vallée de la Clarée and Vallée Étroite
late Saturday and early Sunday
. The pass is about six kilometres from the Italian border in the Alps at Nevache.
On Saturday, about one hundred far-right activists set up a border "wall" made out of plastic worksite fencing and stretching a distance of about one hundred meters. By Sunday morning, the number of activists had dropped to about 30 and by lunchtime on Sunday there was no one left.
The site was then taken over by the No Tav and Briser les Frontieres movements, which called together their activists and held a march to "free the borders from fascists."
Tension on the border
Tensions rose when the 300-400 left-wing protestors found a French gendarme cordon blocking their way in Montegenevre, a French municipality. Pushing and insults ensued but the French forces eventually allowed the protestors to cross. They then walked a few dozen meters on a snow-covered ski route until they reached Route 94.
Without any further incident, they then headed towards Briancon, about 12 kilometers from the Italian border. The road was blocked and lengthy queues of cars formed on both sides opf the border, but the No Tav and Briser les Frontieres groups did not come into contact with any members of Generation Identitaire.
"The first part of the Alps Mission of the Defend Europe campaign was successful," Generation Identitaire said, "and is ending. However, mobile surveillance of the border continues. We demand the definitive arrest of illegal immigrants entering France and Europe, the repatriation of clandestine migrants to their countries of origin and the total closure of the Colle della Scala."
The campaign being conducted by Briser le Frontieres is continuing as well, with the group issuing a statement saying that, "it is unacceptable that a group of French and Italian neo-Nazis have protested in Colle della Scala." The group went on to say that "our valleys belong to us and we cannot let fascists circulate freely only a few days before Italy's Liberation Day on April 25. The partisans gave everything on these mountains."
The action by Generation Identitaire "was a double provocation, coming so close to the April 25 holiday as it did," said Rainbow for Africa, an association helping migrants on the Alpine route between Italy and France. "We will respond by continuing to help and to provide care. As sentinels, some of our volunteers went to check that the roads are safe."