• 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sarkozy staffer won't back boss in 2017 vote
Gérald Darmanin was appointed official spokesman for Sarkozy's UMP presidency campaign in September. Photo: EglantineD/Wikicommons

Sarkozy staffer won't back boss in 2017 vote

It's a French political paradox: Gérald Darmanin may be the new spokesman for comeback king Nicolas Sarkozy, but he won't be backing his new boss for a rumoured presidential run in 2017. READ  

UN Climate Summit
France pledges $1 billion to fight climate change
French President François Hollande said that France would contribute $1 billion in the coming years. Photo: AFP

France pledges $1 billion to fight climate change

Despite France's stagnant economy and record unemployment, its president announced on Tuesday Paris would contribute up to $1 billion to the UN's fund to help poorer nations finance climate change reform. READ  

Merah's brother-in-law arrested with 'jihadists'
Anti-terror police arrested terrorist Mohamed Merah's brother on his way back from Syria. Photo: AFP

Merah's brother-in-law arrested with 'jihadists'

The brother-in-law of French terrorist and mass killer Mohamed Merah was arrested with two other suspected jihadists as they flew back to France after spending several months in Syria. READ  

French nuns and priests targeted by 'thieving duo'
The couple's victims were all retired priests and nuns. Nun photo: Shutterstock

French nuns and priests targeted by 'thieving duo'

A couple in the southern French city of Toulon have been arrested for allegedly robbing retired nuns and priests whose addresses they obtained from a church directory. READ  

Top French court bolsters gay adoption
A top French court has bolstered gay parents adoption rights. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Top French court bolsters gay adoption

France's top civil court on Monday ruled authorities must allow adoptions to occur for same sex parents, regardless of how the child was conceived. READ  

'France's economic woes aren't Germany's fault'
France's prime minister got a frosty welcome in Germany. Photo: AFP

'France's economic woes aren't Germany's fault'

As France's prime minister sat in the audience on Tuesday, the top lobbyist for German industry told a conference that Germany didn't mess up the French economy and isn't responsible for fixing it. READ  

French maternity wards prepare for busiest day
France’s maternity wards will be able to cope with the increase of expecting mothers, according to INED. Newborn baby photo: Shutterstock

French maternity wards prepare for busiest day

More French babies will be brought into the world this Tuesday than on any other day this year, according to a new study, with experts attributing the phenomenon to something special that happens around the new year. READ  

VIDEO
Flood-fleeing pheasants invade French town
6,000 birds were left homeless as a result of the floods. Pheasant photo: Shutterstock

Flood-fleeing pheasants invade French town

Just days after a French village was hit by heavy flooding its residents are battling another natural hazard after it was inundated by thousands of homeless pheasants and partridges. READ  

Air France strike hits ninth day, no end in sight
There is no end in sight to the Air France pilots' strike Photo: Aeroicarus/Flickr

Air France strike hits ninth day, no end in sight

As the Air France pilots' strike grinds into its ninth day, there is little hope that unions and management are close to a deal. Over half of the airline's flights remain grounded. READ  

Emotions high ahead of Gaultier's 'last' show
Designer Jean-Paul Gauthier, right, is to give his 'last' show this week. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Emotions high ahead of Gaultier's 'last' show

Expectation--and nostalgia--are mounting ahead of the 'last' show for legendary designer Jean-Paul Gaulthier before he retires from the ready-to-wear fashion business. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
International
Militants say they'll kill Frenchman in 24 hours
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
National
'Paris is a sexy city, its beauty is inspiring'
Culture
Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
National
Top French chefs want banned bird on menu
National
VIDEO: Making of French rugby hunk calendar
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Marks and Spencer: Win €300 toward your new autumn wardrobe
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Society
France's top expat tribes: Which are you?
National
France to set flat-rate for Paris airport taxis
Politics
French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'
National
Anti-dog poo offensive launched in French town
National
Scammers attack Paris's top cop at tourist hotspot
National
French leader didn't pay his rent for three years
National
'WW2 bomb' kills camper on French island
National
'Enough gloom, France is an amazing country'
Gallery
The top ten tourist traps to avoid in France
Politics
The juiciest bits from Trierweiler's tell-all book
Politics
Trierweiler tells all: 'Hollande wanted me back, at any price'
Education
'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?
Politics
Manuel Valls has plenty in common with Tony Blair, but not background
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