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Amiens mayor warned of trouble two months ago

The mayor of Amiens alerted central government two months ago to “renewed delinquency” and a shortage of police officers in the city, a newly-released letter shows. Meanwhile five people have been arrested in connection to the violence.

Amiens mayor, Gilles Demailly, wrote the letter, published today in national paper Libération, to Interior Minister Manuel Valls on May 25, shortly after he entered office.

In it, the Mayor Demailly underlines his personal “exasperation and worry”, as well as that of local residents and security forces, about the “renewed delinquency” evident in some parts of the city.

Demailly reminds Valls of the reduction that 20 officers were recently cut from the local police force – and invites him to Amiens to “appreciate the difficulties we meet”.

“Security and the law are still not present in certain areas. These services, as a whole, cannot be given back to residents, who feel they have been pushed outside the values of the republic,” Demailly wrote.

After the riots early Tuesday morning, in which 16 police officers were injured, Demailly told the AFP: “For months I have been asking for more funding because the tension has been mounting in that part of the city.”

The area concerned was already known to authorities, and had been recently classed as a “priority safety zone”, with the aim of improving security in the area by September with a more obvious police presence.

The publication of the letter comes after five arrests were made in Amiens in connection to the riots.

All arrests were made in the north of the city, near to where the violence took place. The youngest arrested is 15 years old, the eldest is 30.

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RIOT

Yellow vests: France set to bring in controversial anti-rioting bill

French MPs have started debating a controversial anti-rioting bill which aims to crack down on the sort of street violence that has marred "yellow vest" anti-government protests since November.

Yellow vests: France set to bring in controversial anti-rioting bill
Photo: AFP
The bill notably aims to ban individuals identified as habitual hooligans from taking part in demonstrations, and force protesters involved in acts of violence to pay for the damage.
   
Some MPs also want more severe penalties for organisers of unauthorised demonstrations as well as people who cover their faces during violent protests.
   
But the bill has drawn fire — even within President Emmanuel Macron's own centrist party — from critics who say the proposals represent a threat to civil liberties.
   
Announcing the draft law earlier this month, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said some of the anti-Macron “yellow vest” protests had led to unacceptable violence.
   
“In many towns in France, demonstrations have been peaceful — but we cannot accept some people taking advantage of these demonstrations to cross the line, break things and set things on fire.”
 
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Photo: AFP
 
Freedom to protest
 
The protests began in November against rising fuel taxes, but quickly spiralled into a wider revolt over accusations that Macron, a former banker, is out of touch with ordinary people in small-town and rural France.
 
Across France tens of thousands have joined protests and road blocks, although the numbers have eased in recent weeks after Macron announced a series of policy climbdowns and a public consultation so people could vent their anger.
   
In several cities — but especially Paris — the weekend protests have repeatedly descended into violence. 
   
Rioters in the capital torched cars and looted shops in early December, and also ransacked the Arc de Triomphe monument.
 
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner insisted the bill, backed by police unions, was not “an anti-yellow vest law” or “anti demonstration” law. 
 
Photo: AFP
   
“It's a law to protect demonstrators, shopkeepers, local residents and police,” he told BFM television.
   
Yael Braun-Pivet, the LREM head of the national assembly's cross-party laws commission, said protecting the right to demonstrate would be front and centre in the debate.
 
“What guarantees are being put around this procedure?” she demanded, telling the Journal du Dimanche newspaper earlier this month that she was “reticent” over certain measures.
   
Leftist critics have decried the bill as “liberticide” and have been little reassured by Castaner's suggestion that a protest ban would concern fewer than 300 people.
   
Already revised by Braun-Pivet's commission, more than 200 amendments have been proposed to the bill, with a final vote due next Tuesday.
   
The draft law could also see protesters who mask their faces fined up to 15,000 euros ($17,000) and handed a one-year prison term.
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