A senior senator from France’s main conservative opposition party has warned that private militias could emerge unless President Emmanuel Macron improves law and order after a summer plagued by violence and gun crime.
Bruno Retailleau, president of the Republican group in the Senate, said: “We risk seeing the appearance of private militias if the state cannot regain its authority and stiffen penalties for offenders.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the party conference in the beach resort of La Baule, in Brittany, Mr Retailleau added: “It’s urgent for the president to act. This cannot be tolerated.”
Mr Macron acknowledged that violence is becoming commonplace.
“Something is happening in our society which is not new and which has undoubtedly worsened, hardened, since the end of lockdown, which trivialises violence,” he said. “The difficulty facing us is to respond as quickly as possible to all forms of violence.”
But the president is accused of being soft on crime and public anger is mounting.
Hervé Morin, the centrist head of Normandy’s regional council said: “France is falling apart. The president can no longer claim that it is just hooliganism or acts of incivility. People see heavy penalties imposed for speeding, while the worst criminals go unpunished.”
A wave of gangland killings and shootouts in French cities this summer has shocked the nation. An outcry over video footage showing drug dealers openly carrying assault rifles in Grenoble, south-eastern France, forced the government to order a high-profile police raid on a deprived neighbourhood last week. But the operation failed to produce a single arrest.
Rampaging football supporters smashed and looted shops near the Champs-Elysées after Paris Saint-Germain’s defeat by Bayern Munich a week ago. They torched and overturned cars in scenes reminiscent of clashes during yellow-vest anti-government protests last year.
This month a man was beaten with a baseball bat in a Paris laundrette for asking another customer to put on a face mask. A bus driver died after being attacked by passengers who refused to wear masks last month.
Abdel Nahass, a police union spokesman, said: “Thugs are prepared to attack and threaten the lives of police officers. They’re not afraid of anything any more.”
Rachida Dati, who served as justice minister in the conservative government of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, said migrant youths who broke the law in Paris were escaping prosecution by falsely claiming to be minors.
“We must lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13,” she said.