Migrants Storm Paris Pantheon Demanding Citizenship, Free Housing - WATCH
Hundreds of illegal immigrants calling themselves 'black vests' storm French monument
Hundreds of illegal immigrants stormed the Paris Panthéon this weekend, demanding the French government gives them paperwork to stay in France and offers them free housing.
The huge group of undocumented migrants, mostly from West Africa, surged the historical French building after overwhelming police.
The group of so-called "black vests" was originally protesting in the streets before the protests quickly escalated to riots and violent clashes with police.
Protesters were chanting various slogans demanding that French President Emmanuel Macron's government acquiesces to their demands, according to BFMTV.
The group La Chapelle Debout! has claimed responsibility for the incident and taken to Twitter demanding a meeting with French prime minister Edouard Philippe.
Les #GiletsNoirs occupent le #Pantheon !!— La Chapelle Debout ! (@chapelledebout) July 12, 2019
APPEL AU RASSEMBLEMENT MASSIF DEVANT !
Papiers et Liberté pour toutes et tous !!!
On veut un RDV avec le 1er Ministre Edouard Philippe !
Live FB https://t.co/qhIU63GTzr pic.twitter.com/I6YgGoWeG6
The group posted a nearly two and a half hour video of the incident on their Facebook page, declaring, “papers and freedom for all!”
The mobs, who were mostly illegal immigrants from West Africa, stormed the building at around midday on Friday and remained for several hours.
Protestors managed to break into the Left Bank Mausoleum where various noted historical French men and women are buried.
Tourists were evacuated from the mausoleum, where many of France’s most famous figures are buried.
They waved papers in the air, chanted, and demanded to hold talks with Prime Minister Édouard Philippe over their immigration status.
In a statement, the protest group described themselves as “the undocumented, the voiceless and the faceless of the French Republic.”
“We don’t want to negotiate with the interior minister and his officials anymore, we want to talk to Prime Minister Édouard Philippe now!” it said.
Between 200 and 300 migrants took part in the protest, a police spokesman told Reuters news agency.
But other estimates – from activist groups and witnesses – said as many as 700 people were involved in the demonstration.
There were 37 arrests made, and reportedly some of the demonstrators suffered minor injuries.
The protesters remained in the Panthéon, a grand neoclassical building in the center of the city, for several hours before they were evacuated by police.
Writers Émile Zola, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas, and scientist Marie Curie are among those buried in the building.
“All of the people who gained entry to the Panthéon have been evacuated,” Prime Minister Philippe said on Twitter.
“France is a country based on the rule of law which means… respect for public monuments and for the memory they represent.”
Populist National Rally (Rassemblement National) leader Marin eLe Pen reacted to the protests with outrage on Twitter, saying, “It is INADMISSIBLE to see illegal immigrants claiming to occupy, with impunity, this high place of the Republic that is the.”
“In France, the only future for an illegal immigrant should be deportation, because it is the LAW,” she added.
Il est INADMISSIBLE de voir des clandestins revendicatifs occuper, en toute impunité, ce haut lieu de la République qu’est le #Panthéon.— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) July 12, 2019
En France, le seul avenir d’un clandestin devrait être l’expulsion, car c’est la LOI. MLP pic.twitter.com/K73EuAxZiD
The protest comes only months after another protest by La Chapelle Debout and the “Black Vests” at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport, which saw hundreds of migrants occupy the airport chanting; “France does not belong to the French! Everyone has a right to be here!”
The migrants also demanded France’s national airline Air France “stop any financial, material, logistical or political participation in deportations.”
The protests come after France has seen two years in a row of record-breaking numbers for asylum claims.
Recent reports suggest that the continued influx is putting an enormous strain on the French administration.