France has put forward plans designed to better protect elected officials from violence and threats.
Reports of violence against them increased by 32% between 2021 and 2022, according to the French government.
It comes after the mayor of Saint-Brevin-les-Pins (Loire-Atlantique), Yannick Morez, resigned from his position after 15 years on the council (and six as mayor). That followed an arson attack on his vehicles and home. He said the threats and attack had left his family “traumatised”.
A demonstration in support of Mr Morez and against attacks on officials took place on Wednesday (May 24) in Saint-Brevin.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne met Mr Morez on Wednesday, May 17, following his resignation and presented new measures designed to stop any further similar attacks on other officials.
Yannick Morez démissionne de son poste de maire de Saint-Brévin (Loire-Atlantique, 15.000 habitants). Harcelé par l'extrême-droite à cause d'un projet de centre d'accueil pour demandeurs d'asile dans sa commune, il a vu sa maison et ses deux voitures incendiées en mars dernier.... pic.twitter.com/fDZszGmdhC— Jérôme Godefroy (@jeromegodefroy) May 10, 2023
This new ‘security pack’ for officials includes plans to:
Create a network of more than 3,400 national gendarmerie and police personnel, dedicated to ‘attacks on elected representatives’ throughout the country, to offer officials a specific point of contact to talk to about the threats or violence they may receive
Strengthen the ‘elected official alarm’ system, which allows elected officials who feel threatened to contact their police station or gendarmerie and benefit from rapid processing of their calls to the emergency number 17
Boost the ‘outreach’ approach of the police to enable local elected representatives to lodge a complaint when and where they wish
Develop new awareness-raising sessions on managing aggression and de-escalating violence against elected representatives
Strengthen the PHAROS platform to better detect and prosecute online violence against elected officials
PHAROS is an online reporting system that invites people to report illicit online content and behaviour.
The government will also compile data to analyse and understand the phenomenon of anti-official violence, through the publication of an annual report, and be sure to follow up any reports of threats or aggression.
The government is also set to introduce stronger sanctions for people found guilty of threatening or attacking an official, and the alignment of all law enforcement services so that they are aware of these new measures.
Violette Spillebout, MP for the Nord department, told FranceInfo that she felt the measures were needed, but that she did not want to worsen the crisis.
She said: “People often say to us: ‘Really, I’m interested in politics, but I would never do it. Given what you go through, I’d never get involved.’”