France bans far-right 'paramilitary' group Génération Identitaire

By Kim Willsher

France has banned a notorious far-right “paramilitary” group linked to the gunman in the Christchurch mosque attack and accused of inciting discrimination, hatred and violence.

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin announced the Génération Identitaire organisation was being dissolved after a council of ministers meeting on Wednesday.

He said the move to outlaw the Lyon-based group, described as resembling a “private militia”, had been approved by French president Emmanuel Macron.

The decree pointed out Génération Identitaire’s founding act in 2012 had been to occupy the site of a new grand mosque in the city of Poitiers. It had also called for the “remigration” of refugees at European level and called for a political doctrine of “national preference” in France.

The group encouraged members to wear uniforms and used paramilitary rhetoric and symbolism – including the image of Joan of Arc brandishing a kalashnikov – it noted.

The decree also accused Génération Identitaire of being open about its stated aim of “entering into war against all those who want to tear us from our roots and make us forget who we are” and that it ran a boxing club next to its headquarters to train members in combat and self-defence.

Génération Identitaire has carried out several high-profile actions to block migrants from entering France. In January, around 30 members mobilised around the Col du Portillon pass on the Spanish border in what they called a surveillance operation to “defend Europe”.

It has previously set up barriers and fences at French border crossings in the Alps leading to scuffles with migrants and members of organisations supporting them.

In April 2018, the group organised a vast operation involving around 100 members wearing identical official-looking blue jackets, a fake border fence and two helicopters, in an attempt to intercept and turn back migrants. Three leading members of the organisation, all in their 20s, were subsequently convicted and given six month prison sentences for “disrupting public order”.

The government rejected Génération Identitaire claims that its aim was to “defend and promote local, regional, French and European identities” through various activities.

“This association and some of its activists must be regarded as promoting hate speech inciting discrimination or violence against individuals because of their origin, race or religion,” Darmanin tweeted.

Darmanin noted that the group had links with “ultra-right organisations from which it receives logistical support”, adding that it had received donations from Brenton Tarrant, the terrorist who carried out the 2019 mosque shootings at Christchurch in New Zealand.

Last month, Génération identitaire leader Clément Gandelin, 26, vowed to fight the group’s dissolution in court. “The militants will still be there,” he told AFP, adding that he had evidence to refute allegations against the association.

The French government is anxious to be seen as even-handed in its crackdown on organisations promoting extremism. Macron and ministers have faced heavy criticism over the recently passed religious separatism law and recent bans on organisations accused of Islamic fundamentalism.