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.