6 Jun 2013

French shock as skinhead attack leaves activist brain dead

A teenage anti-fascist activist is left brain dead after a brutal attack by neo-Nazis on the streets of Paris.

Clement Meric.

The attack on 18-year-old Clement Meric, a young activist known for his commitment to opposing the extreme right, has provoked widespread condemnation across France.

Bring a million people down into the streets to express our indignation and anger
Pierre Berge

According to police and eyewitness reports Meric was with friends in the 9th district in central Paris and had exchanged angry words with a group of three skinheads.

The skinheads left the scene to “fetch reinforcements” and ambushed the teenager, hitting him with brass knuckle dusters and knocking him to the ground.

Meric hit his head on a bollard as he fell and was declared brain dead at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital where is on life support.

Police are treating the incident as a politically motivated attack by the far-right. The attack has been described by the minister of the interior as “violence that bears the mark of the extreme right”.

A Parti de Gauche statement declared: “The horror of fascism has just killed right in the middle of Paris”. The party accused the far-right group Jeune Nationaliste Revolutionnaire (JNR), an organisation with strong links to skinhead gangs, of being behind the attack.

JNR leader Serge Ayoub has denied his group had any involvement and went on to claim the fight was started by left wing activists.

Front Gauche leader Jean-Luc Melenchon has called for extreme right groups to be disbanded, citing a number of recent violent attacks, his calls were backed by other left wing groups including Young Socialists and SOS Racisme.

Harlem Desir, president of the Socialist Party, has called for a rally to take place in Paris this evening in honour of Meric.

One witness claimed an attacker was seen wearing a logo of the far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from the attack and the JNR claiming; “Making this kind of association is scandalous…you have no proof at all”.

A statement from President François Hollande’s office condemned the attack and said police were given “firm instructions to ensure that the perpetrators of this odious act are arrested as soon as possible”.

Rise of the right

The French extreme right has been reinvigorated in recent months through agressive street protests against gay marriage. Polls show the anti-immigration Front National has become as popular as mainstream parties, with 21 per cent public support.

Prominent French pro-gay marriage activist Pierre Berge has accused France’s large anti gay marriage movement, Manif pour tous, of allowing the extremists who killed Clement into their ranks.

“The Manif pour tous accepted into their ranks these fascists who killed Clément, for them to reflect on.”

Mr Berge added; “Bring a million people down into the streets to express our indignation and anger.”