• France's news in English
 

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
Alps Plane Crash
Co-pilot 'hid sick leave note' for day of crash
Details about the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz began emerging on Friday, including the fact he had been signed off sick for the day of the crash.

Co-pilot 'hid sick leave note' for day of crash

German prosecutors revealed on Friday that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who is believed to have deliberately crashed the Germanwings plane in the Alps, had a sick leave note from his doctor for the day of the crash, but hid his illness from his employers. READ  

IN PICTURES
Harrowing search at Alps plane crash site goes on
The search continues in the French Alps. Photo: French Interior Ministry/Twitter

Harrowing search at Alps plane crash site goes on

French authorities have released images of the traumatic and painstaking search for victim body parts among the wreckage of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the Alps. Investigators are also hunting for the second black box. READ  

Paris: Iron Lady to dim lights for Earth Hour
The Eiffel Tower will momentarily lose its sparkle to mark Earth Hour. Eiffel Tower photo: Shutterstock

Paris: Iron Lady to dim lights for Earth Hour

It may be known as the City of Light but on Saturday evening even Paris and its most famous monument the Eiffel Tower will go dark to mark Earth Hour. Parisians will then have to dance for the Iron Lady to be restored to its glittering glory. READ  

Islamophobia in France
Pregnant Muslim woman attacked in France
Muslim women protest about France's decision to ban the veil. Photo: AFP

Pregnant Muslim woman attacked in France

A headscarf-wearing Muslim woman in her final month of pregnancy was violently assaulted in southern France this week, in what has been labelled an Islamophobic attack. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
IN PICTURES: Grieving relatives visit crash site
Rescuers hold American, Spanish, German and British flags infront of the relatives of the victims of the plane crash on Thursday. Photo: AFP

IN PICTURES: Grieving relatives visit crash site

Dozens of grieving family members have gathered in the small village in the French Alps near to where the Germanwings plane crashed into the mountainside killing all 150 people on board. A remembrance ceremony was held on Thursday. READ  

Marion Cotillard to take Joan of Arc to New York
French actress Marion Cotillard performs in Joan of Arc. Photo: AFP

Marion Cotillard to take Joan of Arc to New York

French actress Marion Cotillard will play Joan of Arc with the New York Philharmonic in a production of Arthur Honegger's oratorio, the orchestra announced on Thursday. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Co-pilot suffered bout of 'serious depression'
Andreas Lubitz pictured near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Photo: Twitter

Co-pilot suffered bout of 'serious depression'

The Germanwings co-pilot said to have deliberately crashed his Airbus with 149 others aboard into the French Alps suffered a bout of serious depression six years ago, German daily Bild reported on Friday. READ  

French baker forced to remove 'racist' cakes
The baker must now remove the controversial cakes from his bakery. Photo: CRAN

French baker forced to remove 'racist' cakes

A court in the French Riviera on Thursday ordered a French cake maker to remove cakes from his bakery after he was accused of inciting racial hatred and the cakes branded "obscene". READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Revealed: Final minutes of Germanwings flight
The interior of an Airbus A320. Photo: Daniel Mennerich/Flickr

Revealed: Final minutes of Germanwings flight

Officials have revealed exactly what was said in the cockpit in the final minutes of the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps, killing 150. READ  

Paris: France mulls lifting ban on casinos
Casino photo: Shutterstock

Paris: France mulls lifting ban on casinos

Could casinos soon make an appearance in Paris? A government report will look at the possibility of introducing the banned establishments into the capital after a series of scandals involving gambling clubs in the city. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Images released of the harrowing search at Alps plane crash site
IN PICTURES: Grieving relatives visit plane crash site in Alps
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
National
Paris: France mulls lifting ban on casinos
Damaged black box could hold key to Alps plane crash probe
Does low cost mean low safety? Questions after Germanwings crash
Gallery
IN PICTURES: A timeline of the Alps plane crash
National
So what might have caused the plane crash in the French Alps?
National
Videos emerge of Alps crash site wreckage
National
What we know so far about the plane crash in the French Alps
National
Where in La Belle France do British expats avoid?
National
IN PICTURES: 'Tide of the century' draws tens of thousands
National
Paris ends smog-fighting restrictions as the air finally clears
National
The main mistakes made by French property buyers
National
International French Language day: But what does the future hold?
National
IN PICTURES: What went on behind the clouds during Friday's eclipse
National
French food porn: What is the Gallic grub that goes viral the most?
Culture
France treated to rare Northern Lights show
Politics
Shady candidates undermine French far-right's election bid once again
Politics
French minister takes a swipe at overuse of Franglais in workplace
French gastronomy set for global charm offensive
French newspaper stuns readers with porn film pics on front page
Sport
The reasons why Zlatan Ibrahimovic might really think France is s**t
National
France could soon ban skinny models from catwalks
Health
Is France's much-envied health care system under threat?
National
There are jobs in France where you don't need to speak French
National
New plan to improve life in rural France drawn up
Education
Paris universities on the up in new rankings
Sport
We meet one of the most entertaining footballers in France
National
New plan to improve life in rural France drawn up
Features
Forget Paris. Is Bordeaux the best place to live in France?
Travel
Runaway plane mows down skier on the slopes of French Alps
Society
Friday 13th: A look at France's superstitions
Culture
France is ready to end its stubborn resistance to the English language
Features
'Hedgehog' and other words that French people simply can't say
Society
The worst 'nightmares' of living in France (written by a Frenchman)
Health
French hospitals crisis: 'It's like the UK under Margaret Thatcher'
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in France
VIDEO: Footage emerges of the moment two helicopters collided
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Helicopter crash kills 10, including French sports stars
Culture
What's on in France: Ten things to do in March
New French rail strike: RER B and regional trains to be worst hit
Culture
Paris museums set to ban 'dangerous' selfie sticks
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