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The Far Right: Blocking the Easy Flow of Rehabilitation

Translated Monday 18 May 2015, by Paul Kelly

Anne Hidalgo will tomorrow pay tribute to Brahim Bouarram, killed twenty years ago by skinheads on the outskirts of a National Front march. An “act of commemoration” to recall a type of violence which continues to this day.

This Friday the 1st of May will have particular resonance in Paris. Twenty years ago, along the edges of the traditional National Front 1st of May Joan of Arc march, four skinheads from Reims split from the group of militants. One of them, Mickaël Fréminet, pushed 29-year-old Moroccan father-of-three Brahim Bouarram into the Seine. Unable to swim, he quickly went under and drowned.

Since 2003 his memory has been honoured with a commemorative plaque, placed by the former mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, on the Carousel Bridge over the Seine. Tomorrow, the current Socialist party Mayor Anne Hidalgo will mark this sad anniversary which has taken on an extra resonance due to the rise in violence, both in words and in acts, which the far right deploys today.

At the time the Front National, having just finished fourth in the presidential election with a vote of 15%, was embarking on a rehabilitation strategy on the initiative of then deputy leader Bruno Mégret. Jean Marie Le Pen, for his part, seemed almost to find humour in a “fatal accident which occurred after the march had gone by”. Macabre.

Marine Le Pen Hopes To Hide Skinhead-FN Links

On that 1st of May 1995, the Department for Protection and Security (DPS) – the FN’s security team which still operates today – had 400 members looking out for between 8,000 protestors (according to the police) and 75,000 (according to the FN). The skinheads involved in the incident were not, that day, wearing the DPS armband. However, during their trial in May 1998 one of them, David Halbin, said he had worked for them “15 or 20 times.”

“Without a badge, because we are the ones that the FN likes to keep hidden”, added his colleague Christophe Calame. At least two of their number in giving evidence at the trial attested that they had had their FN membership cards... right up to the point where the departmental secretary, spooked by the imminence of arrests and searches, asked that they get rid of them. Since taking office, Marine Le Pen has also sought to hide the links between skinheads and the Front National, but has barely veiled the violent behaviour of the party’s militants and presumed sympathisers.

“A Memory Exercise For The Younger Generation”

“In the context of an unprecedented white-washing”, according to Nicolas Bonnet, leader of the Front de Gauche group on the Paris city council, the “hands-off attitude of the media and of leaders [including the president of France, who has made the Communist Party (PCF) and the Front National out to be alike]” has muddied the name of the former while giving a Republican sheen to the other.

We have seen, at the time of the last election, that violence is always around at least in words. Racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia: on social media, a number of FN candidates have overstepped the mark, as Bonnet says. According to the PCF representative, tomorrow’s commemoration is a chance for an exercise in memory for the younger generations. Because “racist crimes are still happening”. And “political attacks” too, at Grenoble, Lyon... “It could happen in Paris next. Look at what happened to Clément Méric.”

Furthermore, far-right militants, from 1995 (and before) to today, retain the same obsessions, right down their wish to control the sexual mores of others. The skinheads then, according to evidence given at the trial, also wished to “bother homosexuals”. To this day, they use Facebook and Twitter to insult elected representatives of the Republic. A precursor to serious action?

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