A video has been making the rounds—you can see it here—that describes an “invasion” of the Catholic basilica of Saint-Denis.
The French Catholic paper La Croix, however, clarifies what really happened:
About 80 demonstrators — or 200, according to one of the participants contacted by La Croix — entered the Basilica of Saint-Denis. They were members of the collective “Coordination for Undocumented Migrants,” an autonomous network of several associations lobbying for the welcoming of migrants. Carrying huge banners, they gathered to campaign for the welcoming of refugees and to protest the legislation “Immigration Asylum” (Asile Immigration), recently proposed by the government.
Considered too repressive by the collective and too lenient by the right and the National Front, this new bill, presented on Feb. 21 by the Minister of the Interior, Gérard Collomb, advocates a “control of immigration” and an “acceleration of the judiciary procedures” for the examination of asylum-seekers’ cases.
The legislation is aimed at speeding up the process for asylum requests and for expelling migrants who aren’t unable to claim asylum. It would also double to 90 days the time a person without papers can be kept in a holding center.
The demonstration took place without any major incidents – “only two people were slightly injured” according to the deacon. The protesters were evacuated from the church by security forces after an hour. One of them was arrested and taken to police headquarters. Some tourists who were present in the building left on their own accord. In order to avoid any overflow, the police chose to close the building at 17.30. The 18.30 Mass was canceled. The protesters then re-gathered further away, near the police headquarters.Why was the decision made to enter the basilica on a Sunday to protest against this bill?
“Since 2002, the basilica has been a place that is symbolically very connected to the welcoming of refugees,” explained a member of the Diocese of Saint-Denis.
It was in 2002 that more than 130 refugees of over 19 nationalities, all awaiting processing, decided to camp inside the basilica – with the support of the curate at the time, Father Bernard Berger.
The post contains no evidence that backs their conclusions about the protesters’ religion or whether they were new arrivals to the country. Furthermore, the protesters did not “attack” a Catholic church, and Mass was not in session during the incident as claimed.
According to a news report from Le Parisien, about eighty people went into the church with banners to protest the bill, and the demonstration (which remained nonviolent) ended after a little more than an hour, when the group was escorted out of the church by police.