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Borrowing a page from the United States, French immigration activists called for “24 hours Without Us: Day Without Immigrants” but Monday’s action was expected to be more symbolic than anything else. Immigrants and their supporters are being asked not to work or consume goods in order to show the effect of their absence on the economy and to highlight the importance of immigration to France. It is not clear how the success of the protest will be measured.
The apolitical initiative took shape mostly online with a Facebook page created months ago that now boasts more than 71,000 members. It follows months of tensions in France that have included a sometimes contentious debate over national identity, a call to ban certain styles of Islamic dress and even uproar over a restaurant’s decision to provide a halal meat-only menu. Some supporters of the action have said in the press that the sum of all this agitation is that it is casting a harsh and negative light on immigrants in France and denying their contributions.
In addition, workers without papers, or “les sans papiers,” including those who work in labor-intensive jobs like construction, have been protesting intermittently an unjust system they say allows them to work for the lowest wages and pay taxes in some cases but does not allow them to obtain legal residency status.
Le Monde gave the March 1 initiative prominent coverage as the lead front-page article, above the fold (above an article about Dmitri Medvedev’s official two-day state visit that begins today to discuss, among other matters, the sale of the Mistral-class warships) and continued for almost a full page inside.
Cities across France as well as in Italy and Greece were expected to hold similar protests, according the French daily.