Elysée guards ‘sick of heavy and sweaty gear’

Members of the nearly 200-strong contingent of presidential guards say heavy machine guns are leaving them in pain and sweaty bullet proof vests are resulting in spotty skin - basically making their working conditions "intolerable" in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, a report has claimed.

Elysée guards 'sick of heavy and sweaty gear'
A guard stands outside the presidential palace. Photo: AFP
Guards from the 180-strong team of police who guard the Elysée Palace in Paris – the official residence of France's president – have had enough it seems.
According to reports in France on Wednesday the officers have logged complaints about their working conditions and are reportedly mulling possible strike action.
They say that their gear is too heavy, their shifts are too long… and the fact they have to wear sweaty flak jackets is having an adverse affect on their skin.
This is all according to the guards' health and safety logs, which were reviewed by satirical French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné.
Ever since security was ramped up in the wake of the Paris terror attacks in January, as part of the operation known as Vigipirate, there has been an increased workload for soldiers and police across the country but especially in the capital.
Many of them stand guard for hours on end guarding "sensitive" sites like Jewish schools, media outlets, as well as famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower.

(Guards patrolling the Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP)
For the Elysée guards, the new workload meant they have to now carry 15 kilogrammes of extra weight – including a sub machine gun and extra magazine, together with a heavier bullet proof vest, leaving some of them in "intolerable pain".
Others said that the heavier vests meant that their skin couldn't breathe, and claimed that sharing the vests among the team resulting in some guards' faces erupting in pimples and sores.
Another complained of working an eight hour and forty five minute shift without a break. 
The presidential guards aren't the first to say the post-terror workload is too much. 
France's riot police decided late last month that they were fed up of standing guard all day and started calling in sick in protest.

They're "fed up" with a "very tense working environment", Nicolas Comte, head of one of the police units, told France Info

One police spokesman has already spoken out about the risks of the long shifts, saying in March that overworking could lead to complacency. 
France's fatigued 'anti-terror' police call in sick
(Guards are at Paris airports too. Photo: AFP)
"The risk is that this will lead to a lack of vigilance, which means that when a real attack comes we are not reactive and therefore unable to stop it," he told Europe 1. 
There are around 11,500 soldiers and guards on hand across the country, guarding over 800 sensitive sites. 


US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.