War on Undocumented Workers in the Capital
The Socialists’ Hunt Down of Refugees Continues
Marie Chevtsova On Tuesday, June 9th, the « immigrants of La Chapelle » began their day after having slept once again in the streets in extremely insecure conditions, sharing the few mattresses and blankets that were left. Another night in the streets...is one night too much ! This is what more than 600 people came to say last night at the rally of solidarity that was held at six o'clock in the evening in front of the Pajol Hall in the 18tharrondissement of the French capital. The demonstrators expressed their outrage before the manner in which the immigrants, evacuated by the State Security Police Force (CRS) from their shanty at La Chapelle, then from the Saint-Bernard Church, and once again yesterday from in front of Pajol Hall, have been treated. The strengthening solidarity with the immigrants is a real problem for the government that sees no other solution than to intimidate and to repress the growing movement in order to avoid “a new Saint-Bernard”, the name of a police operation aimed at forcefully removing hundreds of undocumented workers from this place of worship in 1996 under the right-wing government. Faced with the persistence of Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his cops, who are no better than those of Jean-Louis Debré, the mobilization must continue and become even larger in order to obtain a victory : a collective rehousing solution and a residency documents for all !
mardi 16 juin 2015
A Growing Solidarity
Tuesday afternoon, about sixty immigrants took refuge in the Bois Dormoy Garden, a few meters from the La Chapelle subway station. The Bois Dormoy association that manages the garden accepted to host the refugees for a short time while they wait for the Mayor to decide on proposing a collective rehousing solution. This respite will allow the refugees to spend a few nights without the stress of being evacuated once again and to build up their strength in order to continue their fight. It is a genuine combat that they have been leading in the past days.
At six o’clock in the evening, 600 people came to the rally of solidarity called for by the League of Human Rights, the Collectif des Sans voix, the Undocumented Workers’ Coordination of Paris, the Green Party, Ensemble Paris 18th, the New Anti-Capitalist Party Paris 18th, the French Communist Party and the Left Party of Paris. After 40 minutes of speeches, the great majority of demonstrators spontaneously decided to march in the city’s streets, chanting “Some air ! Some air ! Open your borders !” and “Solidarity with the refugees”, without the more moderate participants being able to back peddle the march. The destination : the overhead railroad bridge of the La Chapelle subway station. Thus, the solidarity boiled over into the neighborhood’s very streets, and the cortege forced the CRS, visibly overwhelmed by the determination of the demonstrators who symbolically recaptured the bridge, to back off. Many demonstrators then made their way to the Bois Dormoy Garden where the immigrants were to be housed for the night.
This demonstration with 600 participants is the proof that solidarity is growing : left-wing parties and community organizations are mobilized. Contrary to what the media affirms, the neighborhood’s residents support the refugees : they denounce the expulsions that they deem scandalous and welcomed the march, even chanted certain slogans along with the demonstrators.
A New Saint-Bernard ?
The government, which has furiously affirmed that it has found a collective rehousing solution to the media, is afraid of the possibility of a new “Saint-Bernard”. Twenty-years ago, it was the conservatives who violently evacuated more than 200 undocumented workers of African origin organized in a community organization from the Saint-Bernard Church. “Saint-Benard”, whose door was axed down by the CRS under Jacques Chirac and Jean-Louis Debré, became a symbol, and the socialists, then in the loyal opposition, shouted out proudly, “never again !” It would be extremely problematic for the socialist government if, twenty years later, the refugees found a new highly symbolic place to be housed all while being supported more and more massively. The burning question of housing and residency permits puts the government in a difficult position. Hence the police violence used against the 180 refugees of La Chapelle and its will to make growing local support invisible.
And Afterwards ?
Between the government’s relentless war against immigrants on one hand, and the slanderous declaration of the right and far-right on the other hand, what perspectives exist for the movement ? The movement must grow, be more and visible, make more and more noise. All the immigrants need our support, both material and political. Material, because numerous demonstrators have stayed by their side, brought blankets and food. Political, also, because it is the keystone of their struggle that reveals the government’s true vileness which would not have made Petain bat an eyelid. In a first phase, the movement must demand that the Mayor of Paris put decent housing at the disposition of all the refugees while they await the regularization of their immigration status. It is the only solution that will allow community organizations and associations to restart their work with the immigrants on a serious basis. The immigrants’ future cannot be treated individually, case by case, in the days to come, which would do nothing more than destroy the solidarity that has developed among them. Housing and residency permits for all !
So the movement may find a maximum visibility, it is necessary to gather before the city hall, that is to say before the very eyes of the government, at the place de l’Hôtel de Ville. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, had the nerve to declare Tuesday evening on BFM TV that “it was not appropriate for the refugees to sleep outside while there are openings in the city’s homeless shelters.” A larger movement, alongside labor and youth movements’ trade unions and political organizations would be capable of wresting these basic demands from the government. If the refugees succeed in pushing back the crackdown against them, that is to say the government itself, it would be a victory for all of us.