From pot-banging to intimidation: France wants to stop growing violence against public officials

Demonstrators bang pots and pans in protest. The escalation of violence due to social discontent reached the threat to officials (AP) (Thibault Camus /)

The pension reform has had an unexpected success: bring together all the quarrels and discouragement of French society. The amplification of marches, strikes or cacerolazos has unleashed acts of violence that worry the country’s political system, an alarming institutional disintegration.

The massive demonstrations and the burning garbage containers have starred in this wave of altercations in France after the initiative of the Government. The protests then evolved into a series of pot-banging demonstrations against the unpopular law. Now, the attacks have become personal.

The case of the mayor Yannick Morez de Saint-Brévin-les-Pins, who had to resign due to threats days ago, came to Parliament to discuss measures to stop overflows that are becoming daily. The elected official of a right-wing front appeared days ago before the law commission of the Senate to explain the “threats” and “intimidation” that he received from the extreme right after the transfer of a refugee reception center to his municipality.

The former mayor, whose house and vehicle were set on fire, explained that he “alerted the gendarmerie, asking them what they could do.” “And the answer was always: ‘freedom of expression, nothing can be done,'” he explained.

“That Tuesday, May 9, I sent a letter to the prefect of Loire-Atlantique informing him of my desire to resign from my term as mayor of Saint-Brévin-les-Pins,” Morez wrote on the city’s website to explain the reasons for his resignation. He did, after 15 years on the City Council, including 6 years as mayor.

The resigned also explained that he received “a pamphlet” in his mailbox, to show that the attackers knew where he lived. Morez, who has repeatedly denounced the lack of state support, was received by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in Matignon to address the issue of him and the repeated violence towards officials.

The elected official, who had lamented an “abandonment” of the State at the beginning of April, finally received the support of the president Emmanuel Macron and its head of government, Elizabeth Borne. The first president expressed, in a Twitter message, his “solidarity” after the “undignified” attacks and both assured him of “his full support.”

Macron was slapped in France
Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the south of France and on another occasion received an egg from a participant in a visit by the Head of State

The government wants to increase criminal penalties for attacks on elected officials. The latter must be considered as serious as the attacks against police officers, announced the Minister of Territorial Communities, Dominique Faure. The official also announced that “new means to prevent and fight against attacks on elected officials” were being studied.

Specifically, the government wants to create a “security package” with more than 3,400 agents referring to attacks on officials with elected positions in police stations and gendarmerie throughout the country. These referents will be the privileged interlocutors of the officials and will take their complaints if necessary.

The shock caused by the resignation of the mayor has become another symbol of violence. The threat expands to the entire political class and the Government wants to attenuate this germ. Macron himself has been the victim of intimidation and beatings. He once received an egg while traveling through the Hérault department, located in the southeast of the country. In another incident, he was slapped by a man during an official trip to the Drôme.

The most recent event was the attack suffered by a great-nephew of the French first lady, Brigitte Macron. Jean-Baptiste Trogneux he was violently beaten by a group of people who were demonstrating against official policies.

Among other measures that are being studied, the Government wants to reinforce the system of “elected alarms”. Each elected official will be able to report if they feel in danger or face a risk situation. In the event of a call to the telephone number 17, the request will be considered a priority, which may lead to a reinforcement of police patrols at the home of the intimidated.

The Eliseo Palace is also studying the formation of a “center for the analysis and fight against attacks on elected officials.” This observatory will make it possible to establish a “database” and a map of violence. The entourage of the Minister of Territorial Communities also promises a reinforced mobilization on a platform that seeks to detect hateful content online.

Finally, the Executive anticipates a future law on the repression of this violence against elected officials, which will be presented to Parliament by the end of the year. This project will try to strengthen the penalties against the perpetrators of violence. The sanctions will be the same as in the case of police assaults. In this way , they will be aligned with those planned for the security forces , until seven years in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros.

The data is worrying: attacks on elected officials are on the rise, with 2,265 complaints and for verbal or physical violence last year, compared to 1,720 in 2021, an increase of 32%, according to statistics from the Ministry of the Interior. They increased by 2% during the first quarter of 2023, explained from the Delegate Minister in charge of local authorities.

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