France far-right

Government bid to outlaw French far-right group prompts online petition

Génération Identitaire demonstration, Paris, 2016
Génération Identitaire demonstration, Paris, 2016 MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE / AFP
4 min

Two days after its launch, a petition opposing the government’s decision to shut down the anti-immigration group Génération Identitaire, has garnered more than 24,000 signatures.

Advertising

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced on Saturday that proceedings to dissolve the far-right group known as Génération Identitaire (Generation Identity) had begun and that its lawyers had ten days to appeal.

The group has called on supporters to turn out on Saturday to protest against the proposed shut-down.

In a document setting out its case, the Interior Ministry said the group was responsible for inciting discrimination and hatred or violence towards 'a person or a group of people because of their origin'. It said the group behaved like a private militia.

Génération Identitaire claims to have 2,800 members.

'A private militia'

It first came to public attention in 2012 in Poitiers, when members staged a sit-in on the roof of a mosque under construction, chanting slogans hostile towards Muslims.

5 members of the Group were convicted for their role in the occupation, although their conviction was overturned in June 2020.

Other highly publicized stunts have included the occupation in 2019 of a welfare benefits office in Bobigny in a heavily-immigrant suburb of Paris. The group held a banner reading “money for the French, not foreigners.” 19 people involved were given suspended sentences of three months.

In the government’s argument for dissolution, Pascale Léglise, Deputy director of Public Liberty and Legal affairs at the ministry, said the movement hid a “xenophobic ideology behind a discourse about national preference.”

Capacity for harmful influence

She also judged that the movement presents "immigration and Islam as threats that the French people must combat". 

The ministry also cited violent action against foreigners, noting in particular incidents with Turkish supporters at a football match in France during the Euro 2016 tournament.

In this file photo taken on April 21, 2018 activists from the French far-right political movement Generation Identitaire (GI) and European anti-migrant group Defend Europe conduct an operation titled \\\"Mission Alpes\\\" to control access of migrants using the Col de l'Echelle mountain pass in Nevache, near Briancon, on the French-Italian border.
In this file photo taken on April 21, 2018 activists from the French far-right political movement Generation Identitaire (GI) and European anti-migrant group Defend Europe conduct an operation titled \\\"Mission Alpes\\\" to control access of migrants using the Col de l'Echelle mountain pass in Nevache, near Briancon, on the French-Italian border. ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP

The government document also pointed to Génération Identitaire stickers and T shirts found among a cache of arms and improvised explosives during an investigation by anti-terrorist police. The government said the stickers demonstrated the organization’s ‘capacity to have a harmful influence.’

Most recently, in January, the group organized an operation to prevent migrants crossing into Luchon in South West France from Spain. The government said the activity demonstrated the group’s desire to operate as a private militia.

Mixed reaction from politicians

Génération Identitaire President Clément Gandelin thinks the motive for the dissolution is more political. “You can feel that they’re panicking,” he said, suggesting that the government wanted to make clear it was not just banning Islamist groups. 

In the months following the decapitation of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist terrorist, the Interior Minstry banned several organizations linked to Islamism.

Politicians have been quick to react to the start of dissolution proceedings.

Bruno Retailleau of the mainstream right Les Républicains party thought the government should act differently to deal with groups such as Génération Identitaire. The government should "end immigration" if it wants to combat such movements, he said.

Meanwhile, Mathilde Panot of the far-left group France Unbowed (La France Insoumise), tweeted “At last!”

Me Gilles-William Goldnadel, defending Génération Identitaire, was clear that the group existed because the authorities were failing to deal with illegal immigration.

“The Interior Ministry is reduced to considering that radical criticism of illegal immigration is racist and xenophobic and that desperation at the government’s inability [to combat illegal immigration] is as well.”

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning