Thousands protest Gypsy deportations in France
There were also protests outside French diplomatic locations in several European Union countries.
At 130 different locations within France, thousands of human-rights activists, left-party members and trade unions participants, marched in protest over the internal security policies French President Nicolas Sarkozy has imposed in the country including the mass expulsion of Roma Gypsies.
The current protests are the first public signs of discontent since July, when Sarkozy announced new measures to combat crime. Among the most controversial decisions was the withdrawal of citizenship to foreign criminals, the dismantling of illegal gypsy camps and deportation of those that were illegally within the country.
Protest organizers stated that the government policies are xenophobic and make it clear that the president stigmatizes minorities just to score political points, with “security” as the excuse for his actions. They add that this is destroying the French tradition of openly welcoming the oppressed, France had always been a country known as a leader in providing political asylum.
Since late July, one thousand Romanians and Bulgarians have been thrown out of the country and a hundred of their camps have been dismantled, said France Presse.
According to the protest organizers, more than 100,000 people marched and participated in the various protests and events yesterday. The French authorities, however, state that the participants were not more than 77,000 and noted that these events was “clearly disappointing” for the organizers.
In Paris, where between 12,000 and 50,000 people participated, according to differing sources, the parade was headed by Roma Gypsies, although political figures, union, artistic or different local associations far outweighed the gypsies. They walked through the French capital carrying a banner that read “No state racism, liberty, equality, fraternity, from all and for all.”