France arrests 21 after hundreds of African migrants occupy Pantheon

France on Saturday detained 21 African migrants who surged into the Pantheon in Paris to push their claims for regularised status, police said.

The 21 will be held pending an investigation into potentially “violating legislation on foreigners,” the local prefecture said.

One demonstrator was also detained on a charge of violent behaviour against a police officer and was due to face a magistrate on Sunday, the Paris prosecutor said.

A small crowd gathered outside the police commissariat in Paris’ fifth district where the migrants were detained. Some brandished placards urging the authorities to “free the gilets noirs (black vests)” and “police racists,” according to an AFP photographer.

The “Black Vests” is a Paris-based migrant association that takes its name from the “yellow vest” anti-government protest movement.

French authorities had arrested 37 people on Friday after around 700 undocumented migrants stormed the Pantheon, the final resting place of France’s greatest non-military luminaries including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.

In a statement Friday, the Black Vest protesters said they wanted “papers and housing for everyone”, describing themselves as “the undocumented, the voiceless and the faceless of the French Republic”.

They also demanded a meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

After the migrants were Friday brought out of the Pantheon, Philippe tweeted the need to respect “the rule of law which means respect for the rules that apply to the right to remain, respect for public monuments and for the memory they represent”.

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.

(AFP)
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