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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Intimidation policière contre des défenseurs de sans-papiers

by Christophe Payet

Police intimidate defenders of undocumented immigrants.

Translated Thursday 31 July 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Repression. A demonstration did not take place on Saturday July 26 at the Mesnil-Amelot detention center – 18 activists, including the organizers of the demonstration, were arrested before they could even get there.

Eighteen activists were arrested at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, for an “identity check” while gathering at the porte de la Chapelle (18th arrondissement of Paris) meeting point, before they could go to a demonstration at the Mesnil-Amelot administrative detention center (CRA). They were taken to the Clignancourt police station and were released at 6:30 p.m. The Seine-et-Marne prefecture had authorized a demonstration at the CRA from 4 p.m. to ... 7 p.m., so the demonstration did not take place.

Ten vans and a bus.

In order to make it easier to get to the Mesnil-Amelot CRA, which is in an isolated location, the organization sponsoring the demonstration, SôS-Soutien aux sans-papiers [Support for undocumented immigrants] had told demonstrators to gather at the porte de La Chapelle a half-hour before departure time. At the assigned hour, about twenty activists were standing there, “accompanied” by plainclothes police. All of a sudden, ten police vans, followed by a bus, arrived from every direction, surrounding the activists waiting next to their cars. Ten people were immediately arrested. Others edged away on the sidewalk. The cars were thoroughly searched. The activists, beginning with Rodolphe Nettier, the president of SôS-Soutien aux sans-papiers, were also body-searched before being taken away in the bus. The police would say only that this was “a police operation.”

Then came the turn of the activists who had been observing the scene from a short distance away: eight additional people were arrested, including Henri Braun, the lawyer for SôS-Soutien aux sans-papiers and a member of the central committee of the League for Human Rights (LDH). “The whole thing was perfectly illegal,” he confided to us, pointing out that “Either there’s an obvious disturbance of the peace, which was clearly not the case. Or else there’s an identity check, but in that case, everybody except Rodolphe had an ID. Consequently, we should not have been arrested.”

Moreover the police took advantage of the situation to search and check the IDs of three young black men sitting near the subway entrance. Henri Braun thinks the body searches were also illegal. “They went through our pockets, which comes under the heading of a court-ordered search. Except that they didn’t have a court order.” The pressure continued at the police station. “They made us hand over our shoe laces, as if we were going to be held in prison,” Rodolphe Nettier said. “But we didn’t let that impress us.” In front of the police station, about thirty people were demanding the liberation of their comrades, which occurred a half-hour before the expiration of the demonstration permit.

An attack on freedom of speech.

As Henri Braun explained, in these conditions the excuse of an identity check is evidently an aberration. “It’s a way of forbidding the demonstration without admitting it. It’s obviously an attack on freedom of speech.” According to the lawyer, the sharpening of repression is totally linked to the repression being exercised against undocumented immigrants. He did not hesitate to call it “a racist policy.” “They’re hunting down the undocumented immigrants because they don’t want any trace of them in the physiognomy of the France of tomorrow. As a result, the freedom of all those who are in contact with undocumented immigrants is infringed upon.”

In the final analysis, SôS-Soutien aux sans-papiers does not think the outcome is entirely negative. “In wanting to prevent us from getting to the detention centers, they’re providing us with a goal,” Rodolphe Nettier declared.

Thus they are calling for another demonstration at Mesnil-Amelot next Saturday. “We’re not going to let them intimidate us,” Nettier concluded.

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