French police arrests 21 people following protest by hundreds of African migrants

French police on Saturday detained 21 African migrants who surged into the Pantheon in Paris to push their claims for regularised status.  

The 21 will be held pending an investigation into potentially “violating legislation on foreigners,” the local prefecture said. One demonstrator was also detained on a charge of violent behaviour against a police officer and was due to face a magistrate on Sunday, the Paris prosecutor said.

A small crowd gathered outside the police commissariat in Paris’ fifth district where the migrants were detained. Some brandished placards urging the authorities to “free the gilets noirs (black vests)” and “police racists,” according to an AFP photographer.

The “Black Vests” is a Paris-based migrant association that takes its name from the “yellow vest” anti-government protest movement. French authorities had arrested 37 people on Friday after around 700 undocumented migrants stormed the Pantheon, the final resting place of France’s greatest non-military luminaries including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.  

In a statement on Friday, the Black Vest protesters said they wanted “papers and housing for everyone”, describing themselves as “the undocumented, the voiceless and the faceless of the French Republic”. They also demanded a meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.  

After the migrants were brought out of the Pantheon on Friday, Philippe tweeted the need to respect “the rule of law which means respect for the rules that apply to the right to remain, respect for public monuments and for the memory they represent”.  The “Black Vests” are known for staging headline-grabbing protests in support of the undocumented.

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