[By Kees Hudig] - An action of the French union CGT on 24 June has created a commotion in Paris. Using violence, a bunch of thugs evacuated a group of undocumented immigrants (‘sans papiers’) who had been occupying a building for a year.
The CGT is one of the five largest French union federations and has long been connected to the Communicst Party, but has increasingly opted for a moderate course since the 1990s.
The sans papiers had been occupying the ‘bourse du travail’ since 2 May 2008. The bourse du travail is a joint office of a number of French trade unions. With the occupation, the sans papiers wanted to obtain regularisation for some 1,300 people. All have jobs and pay taxes. According to an adapted French law, ‘illegals’ can obtain regularisation if they can prove that thye have a job, but in practice this does not always happen and unions have a large say in who gets nominated.
Every Wednesday, a public manifestation was being held near the occupied building, at Place du Châtelet. The CGT thugs attacked during the weekly demo, since many occupiers would be outside attending the demo. They chased away about one hundred occupiers using tear gas and sticks, among other things. Since policemen had been spotted during the attack and riot police was immediately present, it was initially rumoured that the thugs were not union members but dressed-up policemen. This turned out to be untrue. Police surrounded the building after the evacuation and denied the occupiers entrance afterwards.
In a press statement, the union has officially accepted responsibility for the evacuation. According to the statement, it was impossible to enter into a dialogue with the occupiers, and their demands were unrealistic. “We keep fighting for the rights of the undocumented,” the CGT statement concludes.
Organisations of the undocumented are outraged. Read a commentary (in French) here. Report in Libération on the evacuation. Occupiers’ blog. Video shot after the occupation (the slogan: "CGT collabo!" (CGT collaborators!"). The 200 sans papiers who were staying at the Bourse, are now staying in front of the building (and trying to get their possessions back). Photo: bitin.fr