On October 5, 2018, 22 young men and women forced their way into the apartment where the association for aid at sea to migrants was based.

Dismissed for “violence in meetings”, the defendants questioned on Monday and Tuesday repeated in chorus, word for word, that this was a “non-violent action”, the sole purpose of which was “the deployment of a banner”, for “media” purposes.

After entering the premises of SOS Méditerranée, the activists of Génération identitaire, a group dissolved since March 2021, had displayed a ten-meter-long banner at the association’s windows, “SOS MEDITERRANEE ACCOMPLICE IN TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS! – IDENTITY GENERATION”, waving smoke bombs.

After their 48 hours in police custody, the activists had posed, all smiles, under the sun of the Old Port: “We delivered a message, we were quite proud to have been able to denounce the practices of SOS Med”, had explained Monday Flora Salacroup, the youngest of the group.

“No regrets for having participated in this action when we know what causes massive immigration in Europe each year”, insisted Tuesday Edouard Michaud, file S, described as “likely to commit violent actions”. And the young man to evoke the attack at the basilica of Nice where a Tunisian immigrant had killed three people in October 2020.

On Tuesday, Mathieu Balavoine, thirty-year-old and seasoned activist, already sentenced, candidate in 2015 during departmental elections for the National Rally, also claimed “a desire to spread a message which may perhaps shock some, but in a pacifist way” .

– “Young people with good heads” –

Opposite, on the civil party side, seven still shocked and traumatized humanitarians said they had been “belted up”, “pressed against the wall”, “thrown against a cupboard”, listing the bruises and pain in the shoulder or neck caused by activists who “threw them down the stairs” or “kicked them out of their chairs”.

But the most lasting are the psychological consequences: “There was a before and after October 5,” explained a young employee. The six women who testified described insomnia, anxiety attacks, psychological and drug monitoring, and a form of “paranoia”.

“I removed my name from my mailbox, I turn around in the street when I see someone who seems dangerous to me”, described one of them. Several have deplored having to “hide” their membership of the NGO, “whereas before it was a source of pride”.

“We were a group of young people with good heads, we weren’t dressed in black or hooded!”, Julien de Montgolfier, a law student from Lille with chastised language, justifies himself. On the day of the events, “no day of temporary interruption of work” was prescribed for the victims, argues Mathieu Balavoine, forgetting that then experts prescribed up to 10 days of ITT to the employees present.

“If we had to have our arm cut off or our eye gouged out to recognize the violence, sorry, but luckily for us it didn’t happen,” an employee reacted strongly.

Terrified, she who had participated in “negotiations with armed groups in the Congo” was seriously marked by this “aggression directed against (her) and (her) humanitarian work”: “We do not shoot at ambulances”.

The members of SOS Méditerranée are “not civil servants but activists familiar with this type of political action”, Mathieu Balavoine ironically again.

SOS Méditerranée, an NGO based in Marseille, still rescues, now via its ship Ocean Viking, migrants trying to reach Europe on makeshift boats in the central Mediterranean, the deadliest migratory route in the world.

The trial is to be held until October 19.