• France edition
 
Paris activist dies after far-right attack
18-year-old Clément Meric. File photo: LCI/Screengrab

Paris activist dies after far-right attack

Published: 06 Jun 2013 09:31 GMT+02:00
Updated: 06 Jun 2013 17:48 GMT+02:00

Clément Méric, an 18-year-old student at Sciences Po in Paris is officially deceased, police sources said on Thursday.

Méric, a left-wing and anti-fascist activist, originally from Brest in Brittany, was “violently attacked” by a group of three skinheads, including one woman, near Saint-Lazare train station on Wednesday evening, it emerged on Thursday.

Méric, known for his radical left-wing activism, had been left brain dead by the beating, which has provoked a flood of horrified and angry reactions from many different quarters in France. 

Thousands gathered on Thursday evening in cities all over France, to offer moral support to Méric's family, and to honour his memory.

This image shows hundreds gathering at Place Saint-Michel between the 5th and 6th arrondissements of Paris, close to Notre Dame cathedral.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced earlier on Thursday that seven arrests had been made, including that of the individual suspected of delivering the final blow to Méric.

French President François Hollande, speaking on an official visit to Japan, said he "condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms."

"I have given the most rigorous possible instructions so that the authors of the odious act can be arrested at the earliest possible juncture," he said in a statement.

The Parti de Gauche (Left Party) reflected the mood of many, especially on the Left, in France.

"The horror of fascism has just killed right in the middle of Paris,” they said in a statement.

“Violently beaten  to the ground by a group of activists from the extreme right, manifestly from the group JNR (Jeune Nationaliste Revolutionnaire), left motionless, he was declared this evening to be in a state of brain death at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris,” the statement added.

For his part, the leader of JNR, Serge Ayoub, also known as 'Batskin', has denied his group's involvement in the attack.

"That's absolutely false," he said.

An attacker 'wearing knuckle dusters'

A number of eyewitness reports, as well as a police source quoted by TF1 television, indicate that a group of left-wing activists had gone clothes shopping on Wednesday evening on rue Caumartin in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.

After far-right activists entered the same shop, there was an angry exchange of words and insults. When the group including Meric left the store, the extreme-right group had "brought reinforcements." 

The victim was hit by a man wearing what appeared to be knuckle dusters, according to initial reports.

One eyewitness, named only as Aurelia, described to French reporters the horrifying scenes she witnessed.

"I was out doing some shopping, when I found myself face to face with the attackers," who she told reporters had shaved heads and wore leather jackets.

"I saw the young man falling, and his head hitting a bollard. There was blood coming out of his ears and nose, and then he went into convulsions."

"He had a huge lump at the back of his head, and his face was covered in blood," she added.

Condemnation on all sides

There has been widespread anger and condemnation in France, from all sides of the political spectrum.

Bertrand Delanoe, the Socialist mayor of Paris described his "horror" at hearing about the attack, while French Interior Minister Manuel Valls had vowed to "eradicate this kind of violence, which bears the mark of the extreme right."

Harlem Désir, president of the governing Socialist Party has announced a rally in honour of Meric, to take place in Paris this evening.

For his part, Front Gauche (Left Front) leader Jean-Luc Mélénchon has called on Valls "to disband groups on the extreme right who, in the last few weeks, have committed numerous acts of violence in Paris and across the country." 

Pierre Laurent, president of the French Communist Party has announced a rally in Paris this evening, along with the Parti Gauche, with whom his party forms the Left Front.

On the other side of the political spectrum, main centre-right opposition UMP leader Jean-François Copé took to Twitter to strongly condemn what he called a "barbaric attack."

Labeling the assault "an exercise in hatred," newly-selected UMP candidate for Paris mayor, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, told her Twitter followers, "such violence is a cancer on democracy."

Calls for civility amid recriminations

As well as condemnation of the attack on Méric, there have been recriminations and counter-accusations between some ideological opponents in France.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, made sure to distance her party from the violence.  
 
She called the attack on the young student repulsive and detestable but said far-right groups such as the JNR had no ties with her party.
 
Le Pen reacted angrily when it was put to her that one of the three aggressors was seen wearing a t-shirt with her party's logo.
 
"Making this kind of association is scandalous, I'd like very much to know who this witness is," Le Pen told RTL radio.  "You have no proof at all."
 
French industrialist and pro-gay marriage activist Pierre Bergé has caused a stir by implicating the anti-gay marriage movement, known as  'Manif Pour Tous' (Demo for all) in the
attack on Méric.
 
"Despite everyone who's insulting me, I say again: the Manif pour tous accepted into their ranks these fascists who killed Clément. For them to reflect on."
Leader of the Manif pour tous, comedian Frigide Barjot, has already vowed to sue Bergé, the former partner of the late Yves Saint Laurent, for defamation.
 
In an effort to prevent and calm such poisonous arguments, French housing minister Cécile Duflot, from the Europe Ecology the Greens party urged her Twitter followers to proceed "without hatred", and "remember  against whom, and why you're fighting."

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws
Meeting your French in-laws doesn't have to be scary. Photo: AFP

Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws

Even back home meeting the in-laws for the first time is scary, but as a foreigner in France it's doubly stressful. So here's ten tips from the Comme une Française blog to help you survive and even thrive with your new family. READ  

How France compares to Europe:  Unemployment
How does France compare to its neighbours when it comes to unemployment.Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

How France compares to Europe: Unemployment

The jobless total in France hit a new record high this month with 3.424 million people out of work. Is it only in France that records are being broken? The Local takes a look at why the numbers are more positive in at least some of France's neighbours. READ  

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight
A Frenchman freaked out on a US plane over a reclined seat and is in big trouble. Photo: Doug/Flickr

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight

A Parisian man faces jail after losing his cool on a France-bound flight from the US over a passenger who reclined his seat just a bit too far. His outburst comes on the heels of the now infamous “Knee Defender” melee aboard another American plane. READ  

French police in race to find sick British boy
Ashya King, who police in France are desperately trying to track down. Photo: YouTube/Naveed King

French police in race to find sick British boy

Police in France and Britain faced a race against time on Friday in their hunt to find a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who officials in France believe was "kidnapped" from a UK hospital by his family. READ  

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'
A third of French women say they afraid to walk in their neighbourhood. Photo: Takato Marul/Flickr

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'

Recent studies suggest women in France do not feel safe walking the streets of their neighbourhoods and many are afraid of walking around Paris at night. Some argue that gender inequality in the country is partly to blame. READ  

Feature - Wingsuit flying
Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps
Wingsuit flying has taken off in France despite dangers. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps

A mountain in the French Alps has become a hot spot for the high-risk and often deadly extreme sport of wingsuit flying. And the seemingly hairbrained alpine activity where "there is no margin for error" attracts a lot of "dangerous egos". READ  

British killer escapes from hospital in France
French police have launched a manhunt for an escaped British killer. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

British killer escapes from hospital in France

A mentally ill British man is on the run in France after escaping from a psychiatric hospital, where he was forcibly committed after beating a man to death with a four-kilo weight. READ  

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?
France may not be suffering from a brain drain after all, but it's not as attractive as the UK or Germany. Photo: Leaving.

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?

The latest European Union figures cast a bit of doubt on worries the moribund French economy is prompting a mass brain drain. However the stats do suggest France is far less attractive than the UK and Germany when it comes to certain professions. READ  

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations
Bed bugs are biting in France. Photo: Shutterstock

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations

The infestation of French cities by bed bugs is worse than ever before with hygiene services overwhelmed, according to reports. READ  

IMF board to review Lagarde's legal problems
IMF chief Christine Lagarde's situation is to be reviewed after she was placed under investigation. Photo: AFP

IMF board to review Lagarde's legal problems

International Monetary Fund board members will meet "as soon as possible" to review the situation of their chief Christine Lagarde, who was placed under formal investigation in Paris this week for alleged "negligence". READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se