Of course, French police and politicians lied and smeared British football fans. That’s what they do | Fabrice Arfi

Jhere is a proverb in French: “To something misfortune is good”. This is roughly equivalent to “Every cloud has a silver lining”. In that sense – and I mean no offense to Liverpool supporters – I think something positive came out of the Champions League final fiasco in Paris on May 28, when the club’s supporters were unfairly blamed for chaotic and terrifying outdoor scenes. The France‘s stadium.

It’s that the world finally knows that there is a country where people who don’t cause trouble – including children who had just come to watch their idols play football – can be gassed and abused by the police for no justifiable reason. A country where those who exercise the highest political office are able to peddle absolute nonsense to try to get out of the controversy, without fear of consequences. This country is mine, France.

Finally, amid the continuing outrage, with British and Spanish officials and politicians, and thousands of fans and families, still calling for apologies and explanations, perhaps the world can understand what we journalists French, have been trying to document for several years, especially since Emmanuel Macron came to power in 2017. Here are some examples.

On December 1, 2018 in Marseille, Zineb Redouane, 80, was hit in the head by a tear gas canister as she went to close a window of her fourth-floor apartment due to a protest taking place in the street below. . Video images showed the firing of this grenade by a police officer. She died the next day in hospital. The police never identified the officer who fired the grenade and the government did nothing.

On March 23, 2019, in Nice, Geneviève Legay, 73, feminist and anti-capitalist activist, peacefully participated in a demonstration against Macron and his government. When a police charge took her down, she suffered serious head injuries, including a brain hemorrhage. “This woman had had no contact with law enforcement,” Macron said two days later. Contemptuously, he added, “I wish her a speedy recovery and, perhaps, some kind of wisdom.” He had lied – a judicial inquiry established that she was indeed the victim of the police intervention. For revealing the details of the case, a journalist from the investigative team that I co-lead at Mediapart was summoned for questioning by the police. Again, the government did nothing.

On June 21, 2019 in Nantes, 24-year-old Steve Maia Caniço joined in a dance party on a quay by the Loire River during France’s annual musical festivities, the Fête de la Musique. During the night, the police violently tried to disperse the revelers, knocking 14 of them into the river. Maia Caniço’s body was discovered in the water a month later and the initial police report concluded that her death was unrelated to the police charge. A judicial inquiry has since concluded otherwise. The government, again, did nothing.

I could also mention how the police forced a group of students protesting education reforms to kneel on the ground with their hands behind their heads like prisoners of war, or incidents where police beat firefighters during a protest over working conditions and dragged protesting nurses along the road. ground. Not to mention the 30 people who lost an eye, and six others who lost a hand, during the “yellow vest” demonstrations – and all those times when the government did nothing and said nothing.

But when it says something, that’s how it sounds. In March 2019, Macron, apparently inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, said, “Don’t talk about police repression and violence, such talk is unacceptable in a rule of law.

In February 2020, Macron’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, infamous for once falsely claiming that May Day protesters had “attacked” a Paris hospital, said: “I like the order in this country and I defend the police… And in my words there are no buts’. I defend them, and that’s it.

And what of the comment by Castaner’s successor, Gérald Darmanin, who blamed Champions League disruption on “industry-scale” ticket fraud and said more than 30-40,000 Liverpool fans had counterfeit tickets or no tickets outside the stadium.

Speaking in parliament in July 2020, Darmanin said: “When I hear about police brutality, I choke.” The remark was particularly cynical, made barely two months after the death of George Floyd in the United States after his neck was compressed by a police officer, and six months after the death in Paris of delivery man Cédric Chouviat who, during a traffic control who got out of the way, shouted “I’m suffocating” seven times to the officers lying on top of him.

The message I want to send here is that behind the heated controversy that continues to surround the Champions League final, the violence and near-disaster, lies the silence of a familiar and practiced French strategy. It ensures that wrongdoing is never punished and that police offenders are never brought to justice.

Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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