Church demolition: Police quash Paris protest over ‘parking lot’, day after slain priest’s funeral
Twelve riot police cars have arrived to crack down on the sit-down protest in Paris’s 15th district, as dozens demonstrate against the demolition of the local Church of Sainte Rita. Many took to social networks to vent over the situation.
The church has been mined and the demolition is ready to begin, but the protesters - some of them local councilors - refuse to leave. Videos of police dragging protesters emerged online.
A photo from the scene shows police dragging the priest from the church as he refused to leave the mass he was holding.
“About 30 people occupied the building, protesting against the demolition. The evacuation was carried out without any incident,” Paris police prefecture said in an official statement.
RT’s Harry Fear has been at the scene, and spoke with the locals, who are outraged over the timing of the demolition in particular.
“I think it’s like killing the priest who died last week for a second time,” one local resident said.
A parking lot is set to be built in place of the church. Parisians also took to Twitter to speak out against the demolition, and to emphasize how symbolic the events look, especially after the chilling murder of the priest last week.
The leader of the right-wing National Front party Marine le Pen has tweeted, “And what if they built parking lots in the place of Salafist mosques, and not of our churches?”
Et si l'on faisait des parkings sur l'emplacement des mosquées salafistes plutôt que de détruire nos églises ? #SainteRita MLP— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) August 3, 2016
“Jihadists have slit the throat of a priest. Anne Hidalgo [the mayor of Paris] helps them by destroying churches,” user X_av_ posted.
“The day after the mass for the killed priest, they demolish a church to build a parking… Seriously?” blogger Charles Baudry tweeted.
Le lendemain de l'enterrement d'un prêtre assassiné, on détruit une église à #SainteRita pour en faire un parking ... Sérieusement ?— Charles Baudry (@CharlesBaudry) August 3, 2016
Tim Dieppe, Director of Islamic Affairs at the Christian concern organization, has condemned the way authorities dealt with people that were present at a service when the police squat came. He described the images of what has happened in the church as “very powerful” and “extreme.”
“It does seem like extraordinary use of force. It was unnecessary to have riot police go in there and be used to evict peaceful Christian worshipers.
“The images [are] so powerful of a priest being dragged along the floor by police in riot gear as if he is a threat to their safety or a violent person which of course he isn’t."
A political analyst from Marseille, Pierre Schweitzer, does not share the public’s outrage, since the owners of the church have the legal right to demolish it.
“The people who own the church are willing to sell it under a real estate programme. You may think it’s sad, but it’s their right, it’s private property,” Schweitzer told RT, adding that the church was built in 20th century and is not a historical monument.
“The timing is not very good, but the situation with this church has been going on since 2010. The owners want to have the law enforced, it’s their right.”
The church has been officially closed since last year, with the plan to demolish the church in place since October 2015. Sainte Rita has been operational, though, serving a new Catholic parish association.
The hefty sum of €3 million is needed to save the church, according to France TV Info. The owner of the property sold it after he couldn’t pay the rent anymore. However, local clerics say they have nowhere to go if Sainte Rita is destroyed.
“For the moment, no one has offered me anything else. We hold marriages, baptisms, all sorts of ceremonies regularly. We can’t leave just like this if no one offers us anything. Or we’ll celebrate services in the street,” Paris’s archbishop Monseigneur Dominique Philippe told France 3 broadcaster.