A recent protest action against a new migration law in France has resulted in a violent brawl prompting local police to intervene and expel activists from the church.
Answering Sputnik's question about why the campaign was organized in the Basilica of St. Denis, Bruno Rastoin, a representative of the Saint-Denis diocese said that the religious institution, which is also a burial site of French kings in the suburbs of Paris, has a symbolic meaning.
"The Basilica of Saint-Denis has become a symbol of the struggle of illegal migrants since 2002 when demonstrators burst into the basilica for the first time. This explains the choice of a place for Sunday's action," Rastoin said.
Merci aux policiers du 93 qui ont mis fin à la profanation de la Basilique Saint-Denis, tombeau des Rois de France, par une horde de migrants africains..— Adrenaline ✞ 🇫🇷 (@adrenaline1001) 20 марта 2018 г.
Si ça avait été une mosquée, l’état aurait réagit plus vite
In turn, Pierre Garelli, head of the social movement "Coordination Sans-Papiers du 93" and one of the organizers of the event said that the campaign took place in Saint-Denis partly because there is a high number of migrants residing in the area.
"Why Saint-Denis? Because there are a lot of illegal immigrants in this city. Our organization is one of the largest ones and for us it was important to draw attention to this issue in Saint-Denis. Secondly, in Saint-Denis we have support, for example — but not only — from Catholics," Garelli explained.
Garelli noted that the Catholic Church in France has very often helped people who found themselves in a difficult situation.
"This is part of the history of our country. And there is nothing wrong with the fact that illegal migrants and people who face difficulties come to the church, where they are welcomed and where they can talk about their problems," Garelli added.
The campaign has been condemned by a number of French politicians, including representatives of the Republican Party and the National Front, as an act of "desecration." However, Garelli believes that this is definitely not the case.
"People used to sing in church, and refugees sing, too. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong about it, even if a poster was unfolded in the building. People, as they can, express their pain, express their desire to change the situation. And they do this also in church," Garelli said.
Pierre Garelli was arrested and is likely to be convicted.the worst migration crisis in its history, struggling to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing hostilities in the Middle East and North Africa.
Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron implemented controversial new illegal immigration and refugee laws. The law proposes to speed up asylum procedures, reducing the time within which people can apply for asylum from 120 to 90 days. The time to re-apply for asylum for those whose applications were rejected will also be reduced from 30 to 15 days.
In addition, the new law provides for several incentives to dissuade migrants from coming to France in the first place and makes their deportations easier.