France in shock after teenage far-left activist dies following fight with skinheads
FEARS of sustained political violence in France grew today after an 18 years old student and leftist activist died from brain injuried inflicted in a street attack by suspected neo-Nazis.
The incident, in the tourist heart of the capital, reinforced fears that the tensions and extreme language surrounding the legalisation of gay marriage last month could lead to outbreaks of far-right violence.
Clément Méric, an anti-fascist activist, was punched by a shaven-headed man wearing a knuckle-duster during a scuffle close to the Printemps department store on Wednesday night. He struck his head on a metal post as he fell and was taken to hospital where he was pronouned brain dead.
Mr Méric, a student at the elite Paris college Science Po, died tonight.
The incident provoked outraged comments from politicians of both the left and right yesterday and warnings that the extreme language and actions of some gay marriage opponents was generating a violent mood on the outer fringes of the Right. Tensions have grown since a hard-right essayist and historian shot himself in Notre Dame cathedral last month as an appeal to acts of “resistance” by opponents of gay marriage and immigration.
The interior minister, Manuel Valls, described the attack as “premeditated murder” and blamed “small neo-Nazi groups whose enemy is the nation.”
“There is a discourse of hate and a climate that favours this discourse,” he said . “We need to pay attention to this because they threaten our values.”
Mr Valls later announced that six people had been arrested, including the “person believed to be responsible for the attack”.
Eye-witnesses said that the incident began when two “skinheads” and a woman wearing Nazi insignia entered a clothes shop where Mr Méric and a group of leftist students were looking for bargains. The two groups exchanged insults and went out into the street. More “skinheads” arrived and Mr Meric was punched by a man wearing a “poign americain”(knuckle-duster) on his fist.
Independent News Service