Thousands protest French crackdown on Gypsies

September 5, 2010 04:31

Thousands of people have marched in Paris and around France to protest expulsions of Gypsies and other new security measures adopted by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.

Protesters blew whistles and beat drums in the capital, the largest demonstration among those in at least 135 cities and towns across France and elsewhere in Europe on Saturday. Human rights and anti-racism groups, labor unions and leftist political parties were taking part in the protests.

They accuse Sarkozy of stigmatizing minority groups like Gypsies and seeking political gain with a security crackdown. They also say he is violating French traditions of welcoming the oppressed, in a country that is one of the world's leading providers of political asylum.

The protests mark the first show of public discontent since the conservative Sarkozy, a former hardline interior minister, announced new measures to fight crime in late July.

Sarkozy said Gypsy camps would be "systematically evacuated." His interior minister and other officials said last week that about 1,000 Roma have been given small stipends and flown home since then.

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