Photo of the Day: A song and dance to dispel fears

Amid ongoing camp evictions, deportations and opinion polls suggesting most French believe they are different, the Roma community had cause for a song and dance on Sunday.

Photo of the Day: A song and dance to dispel fears
Photographers focus on Roma woman as she dances in Place de la Bastille on Sunday. Photo:Joel Saget

Hundreds of Roma gathered at the iconic Place de la Bastille in Paris to take part in the 3rd Roma Pride festival, aimed at promoting their culture as well as trying to dispel "fantasies and fears" around the minority.

The rally, organised by the European Anti-racist Movement (EGAM) and the French Union of Roma Associations (UFAT) was held not far from the house of France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Last month Valls provoked the latest round of controversy surrounding France’s treatment of the Roma community, when he said most of them had no desire to integrate into French culture and should return home.

“This year Roma Pride takes place in a climate of violent public discourse,” said spokesman for EGAM Aline Le Bail, who said organisers had had difficulty getting permission to stage the event at Bastille.

The chosen location for the celebration was “symbolic” due to the fact that many Roma sleep rough in the streets around the famous landmark.

“We see these European citizens, often with children, who sleep outside amid widespread indifference,” Le Bail said.

“We want to show that we can live together and give a different view of these people and change the fear and fantasies people have of them,” she added.

Among those taking part was musician Yvan le Bolloch, member of a travellers music group, who had walked hundreds of kilometres around Paris, demanding the right to live and work in France.  

The event in Paris was mirrored in similar festivals held simultaneously in 15 other European countries.

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Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours

Ethnic Roma leaders called for round-the-clock police protection on Wednesday after a series of vigilante attacks in Paris sparked by false reports of attempted kidnappings.

Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours
Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the abduction claims. Photo: AFP

Police arrested 20 people following attacks on Monday night on Roma people in suburbs northeast of Paris following false rumours spread on messaging apps and social media warning of abductions.

“We are calling today on the interior ministry… for immediate protection by way of round-the-clock police presence,” Anina Ciucin, a lawyer and spokesperson for The Voice of Roma group told RMC radio.

She said the reports were “a revival of the medieval stereotype” of Roma in which “gypsies are likened to thieves and child-catchers.”

The attacks appeared to have been sparked by the re-emergence of a long-standing online hoax that has circulated in France for years in which people warn of a white van being used in attempted kidnappings of young women or children.

Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the claims and have confirmed that there have been no reports of kidnappings in the area.

A Roma camp in 2017 built on an abandoned railway line in northern Paris. Photo: AFP

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux termed the attacks “unacceptable”, adding that this showed “the absolute need to fight 'fake news'”.

“Spreading such rumours in a highly organised and viral way on social media results in violence (and) the stigmatisation of a community,” he said, calling the process “detestable”.

READ ALSO: Paris: Fake rumours of 'white-van' child-snatchers spark attacks on Roma people

In one attack on Monday night in the suburb of Bobigny, some 50 people armed with sticks and knives set upon Roma living in a nearby slum, setting fire to their parked vans.

“Since then we're constantly scared,” said Georghe Marcus, one of around 150 Roma from Romania, Serbia and Moldova who live in wasteland next to a canal.

“We're not sleeping because we're keeping guard all night.”

Roma people were also chased in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and had to seek refuge in a supermarket to escape violence, according to Ciucin and judicial sources who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.


On March 16, a gang of around 20 young people attacked two people in a white van in the Paris suburb of Colombes, leaving both with light injuries, police said.

Many rumours appear to have been spread on the Snapchat messaging service, as well as on Facebook where posts from people claiming their children or family members had been approached by strangers or abducted have been widely shared.

In December, police in the town of Versailles, west of Paris, issued a warning about abduction rumours carried online.

Police reminded social media users that under French law spreading a false rumour could be punished with fines of 45,000 to 135,000 euros.

Tens of thousands of Roma people have lived in France for centuries, but a fresh influx of some 20,000 people, mainly from Romania and Bulgaria, since the 1980s has led to the creation of new slums and increased tensions, according to a 2017 study by the government-sponsored National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Successive French governments have sought to dismantle the slums and repatriate recently arrived Roma who, while allowed to travel freely in Europe, are not eligible to apply for jobs in France unless they meet certain qualifications.

Between 10 and 12 million Roma people, also known as Roms, live in Europe, of whom six million are within European Union borders, according to the Council of Europe human rights group.