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France’s outlawed Génération Identitaire: ‘We are not a militia and even if you ban our group, you cannot ban the way we think’

The right-wing youth movement Génération Identitaire may have been dissolved by Emmanuel Macron, but the anti-immigration, anti-Islam mindset has taken hold among some of France’s youth and must be addressed by the authorities.

Organisers behind outlawed French right-wing group Génération Identitaire have vowed to fight all the way to the European Court of Justice to overturn President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial decision to ban it, RT can exclusively reveal.

Speaking to RT, Jérémie Piano, a spokesman for the now-dissolved group, condemned what he called a political decision and said he expected that the legal battle to reverse the order – issued by French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – would last several months without any guarantee of success.

“If the decision is judged on what it means to our rights we will win. If it is a political judgement then we won’t,” the 26-year-old activist said. But he remains defiant, citing the groundswell of opposition against Macron’s move to ban the youth movement, a decision condemned by leading figures on the right such as National Rassemblement head Marine Le Pen.

“You might dissolve Génération Identitaire but you won’t dissolve the fight and you won’t dissolve what people think. The battle will continue with other parties, with other associations, with other people,” continued Piano. “But we think the ban is undemocratic and an attack on the liberty of speech, so we have to fight it.”

In his letter to the organisation’s leadership, Darmanin said he rejected their claims that they largely encouraged “the defense and promotion of local, regional, French and European identities”, suggesting they were more intent on stirring up resentment towards Muslims and immigrants who they branded “scum, assassins and terrorists”.

Piano hit back at the accusations, saying, “We totally reject this point of view. In eight years of activity, we have never been convicted of anything like promoting public hatred. Sure, we have been in court a few times, but never convicted of this.”

Adding to the government’s concern over the organisation, which launched with a “Declaration of War” video on YouTube in 2012, was a 2018 protest which took place on the French-Italian border. Génération Identitaire was accused of being a paramilitary organisation after members were seen wearing police-style blue jackets as two helicopters hovered above the scene, while a huge “Defend Europe” banner was unfurled.

Three members were subsequently tried and jailed for impersonating police officers, but Piano denies the group was a militia.

“This is just the point of the view of the government,” he said. “They say that because we had blue jackets and because we had a helicopter helping us to survey the frontier in 2018 in the Alps during the ‘Defend Europe’ mission, we are militia. They also say because we practise boxing, we are a militia.

“They say our words and the language we use are semantically linked to the war. We say we are declaring war against progressivism, against multiculturalism, against Islamism and because we use this vocab they say we are a militia. That’s what it is down to: because of blue jackets, because of boxing and because of the vocabulary of war, they say we are a militia.”

Following a trial that began in 2018, a French court decided the group was not a military organisation in a decision handed down in 2019, but the accusation has seemingly stuck. So too has the claim that convicted mass murderer Brenton Tarrant, who left 51 people dead after two consecutive attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, had donated more than €2,000 to Génération Identitaire.

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Piano did not deny the allegation, but instead offered the view from the now-defunct organisation. “This was an awful attack but we have no links with far right extremism and we have no formal links with people who maybe gave us some money, maybe saying they support Génération Identitaire,” he said.

“We had donations from everyone. It’s not our fault if a crazy person gave us donations. You cannot say this group is bad because that person gave them some money. We have thousands and thousands of people who give us money.

“We are not responsible for any acts, good or bad, from a person who simply says they support Génération Identitaire.”

While news of the donation appalled many French people, it did little to dampen interest in the right-wing organisation from the target demographic of people aged 18 to 25. Piano said membership was at 4,000 with a hard core of two to three hundred activists.

The French group is part of a closely connected worldwide network of identitarian organisations, from the USA to Australia and throughout Europe, promoted as a resistance towards progressive liberalism. The problem with banning it in France is that it still flourishes elsewhere.

“This is a fight between progressivism and, let’s say, conservatism; the people who want to stay French, who want to stay European who don’t want to continue to pursue multiculturalism,” Piano said. 

“Across the world, there are patriotic identitarian forces in every country that are rising. People across the world want to reclaim their identity and the links to their ancestors. And progressivism is trying to erase all of it. But the race is coming to an end. In a few years’ time, there will be no such thing as racism in Europe, only identitarianism.

“Because if you listen to the opinion surveys, more than 60 per cent of French people believe immigration is a problem and the fight against illegal immigration is the top priority.”

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Polling from French organisation IFOP supports this view with its December 2018 survey finding a clear majority of French people (60 percent) “consider that welcoming foreigners is no longer possible due to differences in values and problems of cohabitation. Almost identical numbers believe that it plays a negative role for French identity and for the cohesion of society.”

In the two years since that poll, anti-immigrant feeling has hardened as France has been rocked by a series of terrorist atrocities undertaken by migrants. Within the space of less than a month in October last year, two barbaric attacks shocked the nation: the decapitation of teacher Samuel Paty outside his school gates by an 18-year-old ethnic Chechen refugee, and the killing of three people, with one beheaded, at a church in Nice by a Tunisian migrant who had slipped into the country just a few days earlier.

While the rise in Islamist attacks has led to the French government introducing tough legislation to tackle home-grown terrorism and integration problems, President Macron acted to prevent tensions from rising on the related issued of immigration by cracking down on Génération Identitaire’s attempts to seize the narrative.

“The government says we are a threat because we are saying there is a link between terrorism and immigration,” said Piano. “But it’s just facts. Some terrorists were Chechen that just arrived in our country, others were Tunisians, they were not French, they came through immigration to commit attacks on our soil. The government is saying because you said there is a link you are inciting public hatred. 

“We are fighting one big thing – that is immigration, which is almost an invasion and because we are fighting against this we are fighting against Islamisation, racism against white people and insecurity. We are fighting against immigration and all its consequences.”

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While Génération Identitaire’s battle is stalled for the time being, and probably for good, France is just one the many European countries where this discussion of identity is a dominant feature in political and social life.

But France’s problems are very particular. It continues to battle with its own attempts to preserve its secular values, while simultaneously facing a genuine struggle to unite migrant cultures and the traditions they hold important with French society.

Génération Identitaire and the wider identitarian movements around Europe, specifically, are an expression of young people’s impatience, anger and determination to do something about this progressive agenda from which they feel excluded, with their opinions brushed aside. 

As Jérémie Piano pointed out, you can dissolve Génération Identitaire but you cannot dissolve what the French people think. And to ignore that, despite the social media clamour, the outrageous high-profile stunts and the incendiary language, is a grave mistake… whether or not you agree with them.

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