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Politics

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Violences policières à La Réunion

by Geoffroy Géraud

Police violence in La Réunion

Translated Wednesday 21 October 2009, by David Lundy and reviewed by Henry Crapo

REPRESSION: A group of armed and balaclava-clad police officers looking for a communist activist caused panic in a working class district of Saint-Louis on Wednesday.

La Réunion, special correspondent.

Last Sunday, by-elections were held in La Réunion, following cancelations by the Council of State. In the four polls, it was progressives who won the day, confirming the successes of March 2008.

A strained climate hung over the campaign which followed the election cancellations. Tensions reached their height in Saint-Louis, confronting out-going Mayor Claude Hoarau, who heads the electoral list of the Communist Party of Réunion (CPR), and his adversary from the New Centre Party, Cyrille Hamilcaro. Supporters of the latter drew attention to themselves even before the beginning of the campaign, with a series of provocations and insults directed at Communists and members of other left-wing parties. This strategy was as much about intimidating voters as it was about provoking activists on the left. Surely with the overall objective to provide justification for recourse to the use of the police against their opponents.

Losing ground day by day, the New Centre candidate resorted to calling in the mayor of Drancy, Jean-Christophe Lagarde (New Centre). Having travelled more than 10,000 kilometres to provide support for his "friend", Lagarde threw a considerable amount of oil on the fire, insulting the communist candidate and the people of Réunion on more than one occasion, comparing the island to ’Colombia’ and ’Nicaragua’.

Blunders and brutality

It was in this tense atmosphere that the Saint-Louis local elections were held, eventually confirming the victory of the list lead by Claude Hoarau, with 53% of the votes.

However, Saint-Louis did not return to calm. Just three days after the defeat of the New Centre candidate, a group of armed and balaclava-clad police officers caused turmoil/ructions in a working class area of Saint-Louis, in their effort to arrest a communist activist. The person concerned had received no summons, nor had he received a scrap of information from the law. It was with a blunder that this heavy-handed arrest began. Before sunrise, in a veritable military operation, the special agents entered the home of Isabella Françoise, her daughter and her three-year-old baby. After three pump-action rifle shots at the front door, armed men ransacked the small apartment, breaking doors, turning over the furniture in search of "evidence". Pointing their loaded weapons at the occupants of the house, including the terrified young girl, who tried to escape through a window several metres above ground. Finally realising their error, the police officers then entered the adjoining home, repeating the same violent scenario. While three of them seized communist activist Roger Derfla without any explanation, the others pointed their weapons at his terrified wife and children.

Meanwhile, other arrests were made in Saint-Louis, all targeting activists from the Communist Party of Réunion. Is this an attempt to block the construction of an alternative to the crisis, an alternative promoted especially by the CPR, which more and more people are supporting? If this the case, who is it who is trying to w maintain of a status quo built on injustice and exploitation, by means of provoking a return to the violence of the past?


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