Approximately 700 ‘Black Vest’ protesters filled the Pantheon in central Paris on Friday to demand that they be granted citizenship, according to France 24.
The so-called “Black Vests” is a Paris-based migrant association that takes its name from the “Yellow Vests” anti-government protest movement.
As they went inside, tourists were evacuated from the Pantheon, which is the final resting place of France‘s greatest non-military luminaries including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. –France 24
“Black vests, black vests,” changed the group – alternating with “What do we want? Papers!”
The Black Vests demanded “papers and housing for everyone” in a statement, which describes their organization 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 any more, we want to talk to Prime Minister Édouard Philippe now!” the group added.
“The Pantheon is a symbol of great men. Inside there are symbols representing the fight against slavery. We are fighting against modern-day slavery,” said French rights activist Laurent of Droits Devant. “Many people have been living without rights for years. We have done this to ask the prime minister for an exceptional regularisation. There has never been such a thing since [François] Mitterand took power” in 1981.
After several hours, the group eventually left when authorities escorted them out through a back entrance mid-afternoon, according to AFP. “All of the people who gained entry to the Pantheon have been evacuated,” tweeted Philippe.
In total, 37 protesters were arrested. On Saturday, several Black Vests showed up outside of a Paris police station to “demand the immediate release of our comrades! Long live the # Black Gilets !”
They stayed there for several hours until they were calmly evacuated through a back entrance mid-afternoon, AFP correspondents said.
“It is UNACCEPTABLE to see protesting illegal aliens occupy, with wholesale impunity, this is the centre of the Republic,” adding “Expulsion should be the immigrants’ future — that is the LAW.”