On Friday, the French government announced the dissolution of the anti-mass-immigration, identitarian movement Génération Identitaire, also known as Generation Identity in the English-speaking world, after its recent protest action at the French-Spanish border, which exposed the government’s lack of control of illegal immigration, despite its previous statements to the contrary. Remix News spoke on Monday by phone with Jérémie Piano, the spokesperson for the organization, which calls itself a “right-wing Greenpeace” because of its actions devised to attract media attention.
The French Interior Minister wants to dissolve your movement. What reason is given in the notification you received on Friday?
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wants to dissolve us for two reasons: incitement to hatred and the formation of militias. For his accusations, he relies in particular on the actions that Génération Identitaire has carried out in the Alps and the Pyrenees. For the 2018 Defend Europe mission in the Alps, we were fully absolved by a court of appeal. Concerning our last action, last month in the Pyrenees, the prefect himself acknowledged that we had not done anything illegal. For the charge of incitement to hatred, Gérald Darmanin’s services also rely on the occupation of the roof of the Poitiers mosque construction site in 2012, for which, similarly, we had no conviction. The file is quite empty legally, and if we are judged according to the law, we will win because it is mostly a political move on the part of the government.
It also seems that the French government is resorting to judicial harassment against Génération Identitaire.
That is exactly right.
What do you think is the real reason for this relentlessness?
The true reason is that Darmanin has announced a law on Islamic separatism with some timid measures against Islamists. Because of this, he has been subject to criticism and pressure from the left and the far left. Thus, in order to rebalance somewhat the perception that the left has of the government, Darmanin attacks the French who are fighting against immigration. He is going after Génération Identitaire. We could see that the first to rejoice at our dissolution were the militants of [the far-left parties] France Insoumise and Printemps Républicain as well as the Socialist Party.
Are you going to challenge the minister’s decision in court?
Of course, we are going to fight to the bitter end. We will have a long court battle to overturn the dissolution proceeding. Dissolution will take place by decree next week, and so for months our lawyers – among whom there is the famous lawyer Gilles-William Goldanel – will be fighting to dismantle the government’s accusations point by point and cancel the decree of dissolution.
Concretely, this decision to dissolve your movement will block you for a while, will it not?
Yes, it is going to hold us up because the appeal does not equate to a suspension [of the dissolution decree]. Therefore, for several months, Generation Identity will de facto no longer exist. We will no longer be able to carry out any actions or receive any funds, and so on. This will last until the decision to cancel the dissolution is made by the courts.
So it is a way to block you, hoping maybe you will give up your fight.
Yes, but we will not give up.
Following your action at the Col de l’Échelle and the uproar it generated against you in the media and among the ruling political class, some of your activists lost their jobs. Can you confirm this?
I can confirm to you that this was the case, for example, of Romain Espino, who worked in a bank and was under pressure from the left on social media, and he lost his job as a result of that legal and peaceful action.
You define yourselves as a “right-wing Greenpeace” and the trials that have been held against you have indeed confirmed that your actions were peaceful and legal. Why do you think the interior minister is not targeting violent ultra-left groups instead?
The French government has a multiculturalist political agenda. It sometimes finds itself obliged to take small measures against the Islamists, which provokes criticism on the left flank, and so he tries to redress the balance by attacking Génération Identitaire, which represents the opinion of the French. Indeed, three-quarters of French people are against illegal immigration, they want a referendum on mass immigration and think that the fight against immigration should be a priority.
Do you accept the “ultra-right” label used against you by the public media and which was picked up by Darmanin in a tweet?
No, we do not recognize ourselves in these “ultra” or “extreme” type labels. They are used only to denigrate our group and to denigrate the French who are mostly against immigration.
There was already an attempt to dissolve your movement in 2019. Did it go that far?
Our dissolution has been under consideration several times, but governments have never found any legal grounds that would make it possible to ban us. However, this is the first time the government has formally notified us of our dissolution, yet they have no more legal basis today to justify our dissolution. But they do not care and are attempting a political coup against Génération Identitaire’s activists.
Does this mean that, in France, people no longer have the right to oppose immigration in the public debate?
That is clearly the case. One of the things we are being accused of is that we had on our banner, for the Defend Europe Pyrenees mission, words that were, quote, “clearly anti-immigration”. The French government considers it a crime to be against immigration. It is just amazing! This is an extremely serious infringement on freedom of expression and freedom of association, and this is a worrying drift by the government of Emmanuel Macron.
Social media systematically blocks you, and they block media that talk about you in too positive a tone. Do you think they are acting on their own or under pressure from the French government?
They did not need the French government to remove the account of US President Donald Trump, but the French government and the boards of directors of companies like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram share the same totalitarian multiculturalist ideology and want by all means to silence their opponents.
Do you still feel you live in democracy despite all this?
Increasingly less so. If the decree of dissolution is not overturned by judges, then it will mean that we are moving towards a very authoritarian regime. If it is canceled, it will mean that we are not in a great democracy, but a democracy nonetheless, because we will still have been able to defend ourselves in courts and reverse the government’s unjust decision. In any case, we are going to fight this battle on the legal and the political front, and we will be holding a demonstration in Paris on Saturday against the dissolution of Génération Identitaire.