Mass demonstrations across France against Roma expulsions


Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across France Saturday to protest the French government's security policy and recent expulsions of Roma gypsies. A collective of political parties and trade unions urged the public to stand up against "xenophobia" and "the politics of pillory".


Demonstrations took place in 140 French cities and towns, with left-wing politicians, union representatives and celebrities participating in 130 events.

In Paris, the procession was symbolically opened by the Roma themselves.

Arriving on board a double decker bus, artists and singers, including Jane Birkin, Jeanne Cherhal and director Agnes Jaoui sang Les P'tits Papiers.

Among the Paris marchers were European Parliament member and 2012 presidential hopeful Eva Joly and Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe.

Several rallies were also held Saturday in Brittany, Normandy and Loire Valley.

The largest turnout outside Paris was in Angers, where 2,000 people gathered. Meanwhile Saint-Brieuc and Brest saw 1,000 marchers, while in Lorient there was a showing of 800.

Nearly 1,000 Roma have been deported to Romania and Bulgaria since French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the measures in July, sparking international criticism.

The appeal against the government's security offensive was launched by the League of Human Rights, and 20 other associations over the summer.

The rallies are being backed by the opposition Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), France's second largest trade union confederation.

It’s the first such mobilisation since the expulsion of undocumented migrants in the Church of St Bernard in 1996.

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