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France far-right mayor introduces nighttime curfew for under-13s

By AFP

April 23, 2024 11:00 PM


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A far-right French mayor said Tuesday that he had introduced a nighttime curfew for children under 13 in the latest such measure in France to curb alleged youth violence.

Several French cities have installed nighttime curfews for children for limited periods in the past.

But youth violence has become a prominent political topic in France in the run-up the European Parliament elections in June, as the far-right National Rally leaps ahead of President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party in opinion polls.

The government last week ordered a similar measure in one of France's overseas territories.

Robert Menard, the independent far-right mayor of the southern town of Beziers, on Monday ordered all under-13s off the streets in three neighbourhoods from 11:00 pm to 06:00 am, unless accompanied by an adult, until September 30.

The order stated the curfew was in response to "an increasing number of young minors left to their own devices at night" and a rise in "urban violence", but Menard did not provide AFP with any statistics to back these claims.

According to an interior ministry report published this year, under-13s made up only two percent of people accused of violence against someone and just one percent of those investigated over violent thefts.

Menard also claimed that under-13s were "not brought before judges and not sentenced" in France -- when in fact such young minors can be prosecuted, though youth courts take their age and reduced judgment into account.

In 2018, the country's highest administrative court nixed a similar order issued by Menard four years earlier because he failed to provide "elements to support the existence of particular risks relating to minors under 13".

 Two arrests 

With Macron's party facing fierce competition from the National Rally ahead of the European elections, his government has been talking tough on youth violence in recent weeks.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday ordered all children younger than 18 to stay at home from 8:00 pm in a city in the overseas territory of Guadeloupe, starting this week and for two months.

The mayor of Pointe-a-Pitre claimed minors made up 38 percent of those who committed crimes in the city.

Christian Estrosi, the center-right mayor of the southern city of Nice, told BFM television he was mulling reinstating a similar curfew for under-13s in his city of more than 300,000 people.

The Nice city hall was not able to provide AFP with more details.

Hundreds of people, including union and NGO representatives, marched in Beziers on Tuesday against the policies of the far-right mayor, who has also backed a government plan to test school uniforms toward making them compulsory.

Benoit Teste of the FSU union said he was worried the government was implementing too many far-right ideas.

"All these reactionary measures, they come straight from the far right... They're showing their muscles, doing everything repressive, making demagogic speeches," he said.

FSU and fellow unions CGT and Solidaires said in a statement that "two Solidaires student members who had committed no act of violence" were arrested at the march, calling for their "immediate release".

Police in the Herault department said "Two people believed to lean towards the 'antifa' (anti-fascist) movement were arrested for possession of weapons", identifying the arms as tear gas sprays.


AFP


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