French high school students protest racist deportation

Léonarda Dibrani was on a class trip Oct.9 in Doubs, a small community near the French-Swiss border, when French cops grabbed her off the bus and expelled her and her family to Kosovo. She is Roma, and the cops decided her family had overstayed their permitted time in France.

The following Saturday, Khatchik Kachatryan, a high school student in Paris whose family is from Armenia, was also expelled.

The high school students of France called the cops’ action an attack on all of them, on human rights, on the right to be educated, and they reacted with vigorous indignation and splendid solidarity with their expelled fellow students.

A week later, 12,000 high school students gathered in Paris and marched over a traditional route from Place de la Bastille to Place de la Nation. Another 10,000 students protested in Marseilles, Grenoble, Angers, la Rochelle and Avignon, and there were smaller protests in other places. The students not only marched, they struck classes and over 170 schools all over France were blockaded or disrupted. (Independent Workers Party, Oct. 20)

YouTube videos show students piling up garbage containers and building street barricades several stories high in front of their school, then climbing down over the scaffolding or via ladders and fire escapes. When students marched through the neighborhoods around their schools, they used railroad flares and smoke canisters to make it harder for the cops to repress them. Other photos show sit-ins in front of the schools.

The huge outcry led the government to offer Léonarda Dibrani a waiver to return as a student, but without her family. They claimed her expulsion was legal. She refused the offer.

The students’ demands were simple: Since “Education has no borders” there should be “No expulsions of young people in a course of study” and “Léonarda and Khatchik must be able to return” with their families.  There were a number of signs calling on Minister of Interior Manuel Valls to resign.

With a two-week vacation period starting Oct. 21, the next steps of the struggle are unclear.