Log-book: May 2006
The immigrants' vote La Rochelle Against a disposable immigration Thursday of Holy Week
The immigrants' vote
Located in the North of Paris, St Denis is a popular city of 95,000 inhabitants where 71 different nationalities live together. More then 25% of them do not have the French citizenship.
Yet they are full citizens who pay their taxes, are members of associations and are involved in their local community But the right to vote and be a candidate to a local election is denied.
Is not it an elementary democratic right? France is one of the last European countries to maintain this legislation.
The mayor of St Denis, a communist, and his city council have taken the initiative to organize a " consultative " referendum on the immigrants' right to vote. All the population whatever their nationality should be allowed their say.
At the city council, there is a crowd for the great day. A real festive atmosphere. I am one of the patrons of the polling stations. The immigrants, who come to deposit their ballot, feel that they are recognized as citizens.
To the question: " Are you in favour of the right to vote of foreigners and to be eligible to local elections ? " 64% have answered positively. It is a great success.
This initiative will be an incentive for other cities to do the same. When the people are in favour of something, it can be hoped that the politicians will hear the message.
I arrived by train in this wonderful city on the ocean side.
- It rained heavily. As I was getting off the train, I appreciated the gesture of a woman handing me her umbrella. We were a few thousand to gather in the Square where there were booths to buy sandwiches and drinks.
It was a strong mobilization. Many union members came from all over to ask for the release of 4 of their comrades who were to stand trial later on in the day.
I kept meeting more and more people and I spoke with them. They appreciated my presence.
As the demonstration got on the way towards the town centre, I went to the Court and I found myself sitting in the middle of the families of the accused.
" The 4 from La Rochelle ", are accused of burning the Employers Union's premises during a demonstration of 1500 people. They denied the facts. If they were condemned, it would send a strong message against all those who raise their heads.
Many witnesses passed through the witness box showing the accused as family men, town councillors and non-violent union members
The hours went by. Boredom got to me. I took the train without knowing how it would end.
The reporters tracked me down and I declared: " I don't think that the 4 from la Rochelle are arsonists. The true arsonists are those who maintain injustice. "
Against a disposable immigration
The "Place de la Republique" a large square in Paris was bathed by the sun and surrounded by the youth. Closed to traffic, the square was invaded by a people full of enthusiasm. The central monument, raised to the glory of the French Republic, was covered by youth, like a bunch of grapes. It had never been so magnificent. On a giant stage, musicians were bustling about and making everyone enthusiastic.
Trying to make my way through the crowd, I had some difficulty recognizing all those who greeted me. There were also many immigrants with no documents. I signed the petitions presented to me and picked the papers handed out to me. I would need a large bag to put them all in!
This festive gathering was specially organized to denounce the inhumanity of the new bill on immigration. Would be accepted only foreigners perceived as profitable to the French economy. Will only be accepted those who are required for the competitiveness of our economy.
France will plunder skills and talents where it can. Our country will choose the most qualified human beings leaving the poor countries even poorer. In a liberal economy, the human being is a merchandise, useful for a period of time and then disposable.
What will become of the rights of asylum and family reunification? What about those who are sick?
If this villainous bill is adopted, we will have a chosen and disposable immigration.
It is the negation of fundamental rights. Contempt of human dignity.
But the crowd is there and has started the resistance movement. Through its fights, it carries the hope of a society more generous, where it is possible to pass from contempt to an attitude of welcoming the immigrants.
Thursday of Holy Week
At nightfall, I went to celebrate the Last Supper on the fourth floor of a private house. The room had been prepared with great care as the one in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, covered with cushions, prepared by the disciples to celebrate Easter.
The guests were not all acquainted. There was a feeling of being greeted and recognized. A place of true charity.
Nevertheless they willingly presented themselves as the " people with no official documents " of the Church, they have been suffering from being rejected with no hope to see the Church changing its judgement towards them.
After singing the Psalms, we listened to the Gospel: " Jesus having loved his own disciples, loved them to the end. "
This touched us " to the end ": How can Jesus have loved to the end?
We were moved by this unheard gesture of the washing of the feet, a gesture made by the slaves like a gesture of submission from him.
And there was this insistence from Him asking his disciples: " Love one another as I have loved you. "
By his freedom of giving himself in taking the bread and the wine, He was fully forming one only body with his disciples.
Peace was with the group. That is what I guessed by looking at the faces. Our exchanges were of a profound nature.
We shared the bread of life. The chalice was handed from one to the other.
After this meal of friendship, the time had come to leave.
It was time for each one to go " to the end " of his road, to love "to the end".