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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

French students occupy universities protesting against both Macron and Le Pen

A student occupation of the Sorbonne in Paris in protest over political choices following the first round of the Presidential elections has ended after more than 30 hours, but more are planned.

Students demonstrate outside La Sorbonne University, in Paris, 10 days ahead of the second round of France's presidential election.
Students demonstrate outside La Sorbonne University, in Paris, 10 days ahead of the second round of France's presidential election. (Photo: Julien de Rosa / AFP)

An estimated 100 students had started occupying the building on Wednesday to condemn what they called the “fake choice” between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in the second round of voting on April 24th. 

“All the students of the occupation decided to leave,” a second-year philosophy student and Unef activist, told AFP after it was reported that gendarmerie officers were planning to enter the building. 

The final protesters left the building overnight. But the university has said that its Censier building will remain closed until the end of second-semester classes on Saturday, April 23rd – the day before voters return to the ballot box for the second round.

About 150 other students who were blocking access to Sciences Po Paris ended their sit-in on Thursday afternoon after a “removal” action organised by far-right activists.

The protest movement has spread to several universities across France this week. Other sporadic occupation protests took place the day after the first round, at the University of Paris 8 and the École Normale Supérieure Jourdan, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, which were blocked. Around 50 students also blocked the entrances to the Sciences Po Paris campus in Nancy with pallets on Wednesday.

Although the occupation of Sorbonne is over, a number of other protests are planned, including one outside ENS Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, on Friday afternoon, while anti-far right demonstrations are planned in towns and cities across France on Saturday.

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CRIME

Rape case against France’s interior minister is dropped

The Paris appeals court on Tuesday confirmed the dropping of a rape case against Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, although his accuser said she would keep fighting to have it heard.

Rape case against France's interior minister is dropped

Chief prosecutor Remy Heitz said the court had confirmed the abandonment of the case, originating from a 2017 complaint by Sophie Patterson-Spatz that Darmanin raped her in 2009.

Darmanin, 40, is high-flying figure on the right of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government who frequently talks tough on fighting illegal immigration and crime.

His appointment as Interior Minister – the nominal head of the police and judicial services – while under investigation for rape prompted furious protests from feminist groups when it was announced in 2020. 

“For the fifth time in almost six years, the justice system has found that no objectionable act can be imputed to Gérald Darmanin,” his lawyers Pierre-Olivier Sur and Mathias Chichportich said, adding that the minister “will make no further comment”.

“What a surprise,” Patterson-Spatz’s lawyer Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon wrote on Twitter, adding that her client would take her case to France’s top court, the Court of Cassation, and the European Court of Human Rights if she failed there.

Patterson-Spatz and her lawyers say Darmanin extorted sex from the plaintiff in exchange for intervening in a case against her when he worked in the legal service of the conservative UMP party – since renamed to Les Républicains.

Darmanin acknowledges having sex with Patterson-Spatz, but says it was consensual.

In 2021 an investigating magistrate said the case should be dropped, finding that Patterson-Spatz’s “sincerity… could not be doubted” but that she had “deliberately chosen to have sex with (Darmanin) in hopes of having her criminal case retried”.

“The law cannot be mixed up with morality,” the magistrate added, saying the plaintiff was “consenting in the eyes of the law”.

A second rape investigation against Darmanin, on suspicion he extorted sex from a woman in exchange for a job and an apartment, was dropped in 2018.

In his post since July 2020, Darmanin has sought to shore up relations with the police and also played a key role in talks with British counterparts seeking to limit the crossings of small boats across the Channel.

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