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I CARE - #France: Talk of the town: French mayor's 'laboratory of the far right'

1.9.15

I CARE - - News - Internet Centre Anti Racism Europe Controversy
has surrounded Ménard since he took the helm of this historic town in
the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon, which was once rich from
wine production but has suffered decades of unemployment and is now one
of the poorest towns in France. First he imposed an 11pm curfew on
minors. Then he banned people from hanging washing from balconies in the
historic centre, run-down parts of which are home to a large population
of north African origin and settled Gypsy communities – many of whom
have been French for generations. Next he banned spitting in public. “So
I was told it’s a tradition in a certain number of countries to spit.
All very well, but it’s not a tradition here, therefore it’s banned,” he
said. “I caught a youngster hoicking in the street the other day. His
excuse was that he had a cough. I said: ‘Fine, there’s something that’s
called a tissue.’”

When Ménard armed the local police with
7.65-calibre handguns and put posters of giant handguns across the town
reading ‘Police officers have a new friend’, the Socialist government
was outraged. Then police swooped on Ménard this spring when he claimed
on live TV that he had counted the first names of nursery and primary
school children in the town and determined that 64.6% were Muslim. It is
a criminal offence in France to collect any data or statistics on race
or ethnicity – a law rooted in the country’s shame over collaboration
with the Nazis during the second world war, when Jews were marked with
yellow stars and sent to death camps. Bernard Cazeneuve, the Socialist
interior minister, said counting children “sends us back to the darkest
hours of our history”. Last month, police dropped the inquiry into
Ménard, citing lack of evidence.


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