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  • Riot police officers clash with undocumented migrants outside the Pantheon in Paris, France, July 12, 2019.

    Riot police officers clash with undocumented migrants outside the Pantheon in Paris, France, July 12, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 July 2019

The so-called "Black Vests" is a Paris-based migrant association that takes its name from the "yellow vest" anti-government protest movement.

About a thousands of migrants and asylum seekers entered Paris's Pantheon Friday and briefly occupied the vaunted memorial complex to demand talks with the prime minister on legalizing their undocumented status, activists said.

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The undocumented migrants, members of the 'Black Vest' collective, taking their name from the anti-government 'Yellow Vests' protesting throughout France since last November, entered the historic complex at around midday, a member of the Chapelle Debout collective said.

Footage posted on Twitter from inside the building's main dome showed hundreds of the undocumented protesters, mainly from former French colonies of Africa, waving papers in the air shouting "black vests, black vests!" and "what do we want? papers!"

Tourists were evacuated from the Pantheon, which is the final resting place of France's greatest non-military luminaries including the writers Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.

Support for the Black Vests who occupied the Ajd Pantheon to demand the regularization of undocumented migrants and protest against the exploitation and repression aimed at them. A powerful symbolic action that ends with several wounded following violent charges by police.

Outside, hundreds more were gathered under the watchful eyes of a heavy police presence.

In a statement, the Black Vests said they wanted "papers and housing for everyone," describing themselves as "the undocumented, the voiceless and the faceless of the French Republic."

They wrote: "We don't want to negotiate with the interior minister and his officials anymore, we want to talk to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe now!"

They stayed inside the historic building for several hours until they were calmly evacuated through a back entrance mid-afternoon, according to news agency AFP.

"All of the people who gained entry to the Pantheon have been evacuated," Philippe tweeted early evening as a police source said 37 arrests had been made.

Some leftist lawmakers came to the site to offer moral support to the migrants, including Environmentalist Party's Esther Benbassa, and France's Unbows' Eric Coquerel who re-tweeted their demands from his account. 

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, tweeted her racist views.

"It is UNACCEPTABLE to see protesting illegal aliens occupy, with wholesale impunity, in the center of the Republic," Le Pen said.

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