From Paris, France to Surrey, BC, Migrant and Homeless Displaced People Unite!
The Black Vests are a group of undocumented immigrants living in shelters and the streets across Paris Region. Inspired by the militancy of the Yellow Vests movement, the Black Vests have been taking action to demand the end of deportations, the massive regularization of all undocumented immigrants, the end of police terror, and housing for all.
On Friday, July 12th, 700 Black Vests occupied the Panthéon in Paris – a mausoleum for the “great men of France” and an emblem of the French Republic. By occupying the Panthéon, the Black Vests exposed the contradictions of the French state, which frames itself as an enlightened nation that defends human rights, while waging wars and plundering resources in Africa, and tracking down and deporting Black and Arab migrants within its own borders.
The Black Vests kept up the occupation for several hours, until they were forcibly evacuated by police, who then kettled and charged at demonstrators. Fifty Black Vests were wounded, 36 were arrested, and eight are still being detained in the Paris-Vincennes Detention Centre.
Alliance Against Displacement stands with the Black Vests because the criminalization and destruction of camps housing displaced people in Paris remind us of what is happening to the camps of internally displaced people in Canada. Colonialism is a global system, and the displacement and police brutality against African migrants in France mirrors the displacement and police brutality against Indigenous people overrepresented in the homeless population in Canada.
In France and in Canada, every time a new tent city rise up, it is systematically harassed, contained, and destroyed by the state. But our communities – the Black Vests in France and tent city leaders in Canada – resist and build spaces of power and resistance.
We stand with the Black Vests because we have been inspired by their actions against deportations at the prefecture and the airport, against exploitation at Elior’s tower, and against France’s racist institutions. It is only by taking direct action, by struggling together and relentlessly against the institutions of colonial and capitalist power, that we can push the balance of power in our favour.
The Black Vests remind us that our struggle is not contained within any colonial border. We need to act collectively and internationally to confront those who plunder our resources, and exploit, deport, and kill our families, friends, and comrades. The power and courage of the Black Vests strengthen our imaginations and dreams for a better future!
The following statement was published by the Black Vests on July 12, 2019. We are sharing it to help spread their message far and wide. See the original French language statement here.
A Call to the Dead: Wake Up!
Today, we, undocumented immigrants, tenants of shelters and the street, occupy the Panthéon
We are the undocumented, the voiceless, and the faceless of the French Republic. We have come to the graves of your “great men” to denounce your profaning of the memories of our comrades, of our fathers and mothers, of our brothers and sisters who have died in the Mediterranean Sea, in the streets of Paris, in shelters, and in jails. France is keeping slavery alive in another form. Our fathers died for France, and those who have died are dead. Responsibility is now with the living, those who have power today. Let the dead rest in peace.
Two days ago, we attacked the border by occupying the Air France terminal in Charles de Gaulle airport. It is there that the French police throw us into airplanes to Algiers, Dakar, Khartoum, Bamako, or Kabul. It is from there that Djiby was deported!
Yesterday, we invaded the Elior tower in the La Défense business district of Paris and the Ministry of Labour’s office. To the bosses who humiliate us and break our backs, we said: it is now your turn to be afraid!
Today we continue punching back the State and its racism, in France and across Europe. We have come to defend our dignity! We won’t beg anyone ever again. We will rip our rights from the hands of our exploiters through the force of the struggle!
We have come to tell you that France’s motto for foreigners is humiliation, exploitation, deportation. France is waging war elsewhere, plundering our resources and ruling for and with our corrupted states. France is waging war on us here.
Because there are 200,000 empty homes in Paris, while our people sleep under highway overpasses. Because yesterday, the City of Paris installed a fence around the camp on Wilson Avenue in Saint Denis, Paris.
Because in Thiais’ shelter, and every other shelter, police come in the morning to raid people in their rooms.
To demand the liberation of our Black Vests comrades and all others imprisoned in detention centres. For the abolition of all migrant prisons!
We don’t struggle only for documents, but against the system that creates undocumented people.
We won’t keep paying cops and desk clerks to get meetings.
We do not want to be forced to negotiate with the Minister of the Interior and his officials any longer.
WE DEMAND A MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER EDOUARD PHILIPPE, NOW!
We will occupy the Panthéon until every last one of us has access to documents and until all who arrive after us have the freedom to stay!
To all those who revolt here, in Sudan or in Algeria,
To our comrades, to all those who struggle against exploiters,
To all those who believe that no human is illegal,
To all those who are tired of voting for the lesser evil to block the far right,
And to all those who believe that the struggle against future racism is the struggle against racism today.
Documents and housing for all!
Freedom to move and freedom to stay!
Long live the fight of the Black Vests!
Black Vests in struggle,
Droits Devant !!! and Collectif La Chapelle Debout
Translated by Cecile Revaux and Letizia Waddington. See the original French language statement here.