Even by the standards of French “community” policing, it is a desperately harrowing video. Filmed by an amateur cameraman, it shows riot police in the notorious Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris breaking up a demonstration by evicted mothers, some of them pregnant. Displaying the kind of respect and sensitivity normally reserved for prone drunks, the officers poke, manhandle and then drag the protestors along the road, along with their crying young children and babies.
The film was shot in the early morning on 21 July in a particularly volatile town called La Courneuve, outside a block of flats called Balzac. The decaying 15-storey building is set to be demolished, leaving dozens of squatters homeless. Many are young women originally from the Ivory Coast, and it was these who were mainly filmed as they were targeted while taking part in a sit-down protest. At least one pregnant woman faints, while a little boy is in hysterics as he is dragged along the ground under his mother. The armed, shaven-headed police meanwhile wear body armour and clearly display the badge of the CRS – the infamous Compagnie Républicaine de Sécurité, which made its name violently suppressing enemies of the state during the student and trade union riots of May 1968. Accompanied by a soundtrack of shrieks, tears and chants of “Leave us alone!”, the images in La Courneuve have provoked calls for an enquiry into police brutality, and punishment for all those involved. Read full article in the Guardian…
Echoes of Vichy
For Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Sarkozy adminstration’s proposed measures on security are nothing short of excessive. “What are the sanctions faced by a polygamous French citizen of foreign origin whose delinquent son refuses to attend school and violates the terms of his probation?” asks the Munich daily. “If French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government have their way, the correct answer will be: suspension of family welfare benefits, two years behind bars and loss of French nationality.”
SZ, which is concerned by the outcome of the law and order debate in Paris, points out that “what appears to be an abstract case for law students is the latest product of the imaginative approach adopted by France’s right-wing government.” These measures have not been put forward by radical backbenchers but by the President himself, his Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, and the leadership of the UMP, the President’s political party. The newspaper explains that “these ideas are not an amusement for the gallery during the holiday season” – they are to be included in proposed legislation on internal security and immigration, which will be debated in parliament this September. France, which last stripped individuals of their nationality under the Vichy regime, is now preparing to establish a new category “for second-class citizens.” The principle whereby “even a bad citizen is nonetheless a citizen” no longer applies.