Illegal immigrants and leftists occupied an ancient Catholic church in France to protest against the government’s proposals for tighter immigration and asylum policies. About 80 people entered the historic Basilica of St. Denis on Sunday afternoon, calling themselves the Coordination for the Undocumented. The president of the group was arrested by police on the steps of the church.
La Basilique de St-Denis est occupée par les collectifs de lutte de sans-papiers d’Ile-de-France ! Le président de la CSP93 a été violemment arrêté par la police sur les marches de la basilique. pic.twitter.com/R6YAt6yO2O— Femmes en lutte 93 (@Femmesenlutte93) March 18, 2018
After more than an hour, the protesters were evacuated by the police. Protesters then went to the local police station, along with Eric Coquerel, a leftist member of the French national congress.
Because of the disruption caused by the protest, the evening mass was cancelled. Leftists strongly objected to their removal from the church by police.
Évacuation très violente des sans-papier et de leurs soutiens de la Basilique de St-Denis. Plusieurs blessés. Le président de la CSP93 est toujours retenu par la police. pic.twitter.com/bWxbfKhKkT— Femmes en lutte 93 (@Femmesenlutte93) March 18, 2018
In February, President Emmanuel Macron proposed a bill to accelerate the deportation process for illegal immigrants, in addition to other measures such as doubling the amount of time authorities can detain failed asylum applicants to 90 days, while cutting in half the time that applicants can appeal decisions. “It’s a well-balanced law, in line with European law above all, and it is absolutely necessary that countries like Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden have the same type of procedures,” said French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said in February. “If we don’t take on this problem, we will not be able to guarantee the right to asylum in France anymore.”
The Basilica of St. Denis is a large medieval abbey church located Saint-Denis -- a northern suburb of Paris. Completed in 1144, the church was built on the site of a Gallo-Roman cemetery. The relics of Saint Denis, a patron saint of France, were interred in the basilica by King Dagobert I in the 7th century AD. It became the burial place of nearly every French monarch from 10th to the 18th centuries, as well as many from previous centuries.