Rallies were held across France to protest what many say is the continued scapegoating of Muslims and immigrants for political gain. In Paris, thousands marched under many different banners, but they all spoke of feeling excluded from French society.
A large contingent of the demonstration consisted of immigrants who have worked in France for years, even decades, without acquiring resident status. This makes it difficult for them to rent lodgings or get medical care and it leaves them vulnerable to exploitation from their employers.
Since his appointment in February, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé has been the point man in the Sarkozy administration’s desire to keep their “national identity” campaign in the media. Recent decisions such as the burqa law, debates on the role of Islam in France and the deportation of Tunisian immigrants have been condemned by many as purposely divisive.
With unemployment and social insecurity still high as France tries to exit the Great Recession, the message here is that foreigners will not tolerate being used as a distraction.
Many protesters here say that the conservative wing of the nation’s establishment simply refuses to accept that Africans and Arabs are already a part of 21st century France. To quote a popular slogan here at the demonstration: “Besides, we’re already here!”