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Armed police ads spark controversy

Posters introducing residents in one southern French town to local police’s “new friends” prompts social media outcry

THE CONTROVERSIAL far-right mayor of Béziers has sparked a social media storm with a publicity campaign in the Herault town introducing residents to the local police’s new “friends” - their 7.65-calibre handguns.

“From now on, the municipal police have a new friend,” posters displayed around the town announce, next to a large image of the handguns. Underneath the image, the poster reads: “Armed 24/24, 7/7”.

The campaign has prompted a social media storm.

One Twitter poster suggested that police in the town have turned into Dirty Harry.

Les flics de #Béziers mutent en inspecteur Harry. #Menard le fait savoir avec une campagne d'affichage mesurée...— loljak (@loljak) February 11, 2015

And one recalled the notorious “Say hello to my little friend,” quote from the gangster movie Scarface.

"say hello to my little friend" la police municipale de Béziers en mode Scarface... #fb— kdbuzz (@kdbuzz) February 11, 2015

Others have mocked the message, with satirical variations such as this:

Le "nouvel ami" des policiers de Béziers déjà tourné en ridicule >>— L'Obs (@LeNouvelObs) February 11, 2015

Mr Menard told BFMTV that the message was intended to reassure residents. He said: “It is reassuring for residents, who know they have armed police to protect them. It is reassuring for the police themselves.”

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, however, criticised the posters. In a statement, he said that he regretted the tone of the campaign, adding that: “The best friends of the police are not their weapons … but the French citizens who respect republican values.”

Mr Medard is no stranger to controversy. The far-right politician was elected mayor of Béziers at last year’s municipal elections with the support of the Front National. Since his election, he has ordered a curfew for young people in the town; and banned the drying of laundry on balconies - a decision which gave satirical Canal+ show material for a sketch called Béziers City.

Picture: BFMTV screengrab

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