Macron talks about security in France’s conservative stronghold

NICE, France – French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to his country’s Mediterranean coast on Monday to talk about internal security, making a stop in the city where an extremist drove a freight truck into a crowd on the day of the Bastille in 2016, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds.

Valérie Pécresse, presidential candidate for the conservative Republicans party, is considered by many to be the most important challenger to centrist Macron.

Macron met with law enforcement, justice and city officials, checking the progress of security-related projects put in place in 2017 when he was elected.

The town hall’s meeting with dozens of local law enforcement and lawmakers seated in a courtyard took place in the former Saint Roch hospital, a 19th-century building in the heart of Old Nice. During his remarks, Macron symbolically laid the foundation stone for a state-funded police compound in the old hospital, which is still dotted with signs pointing to medical services.

Yet during the 90-minute exchange, Macron barely mentioned the current wave of coronavirus fueled by the rapidly spreading omicron variant. He replaced his mantra of the last few months – “vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate” – with a new phrase: “protect, protect, protect”.

“We have invested heavily in our security forces to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Macron said.

“People have a right to live in peace every day, but there is a lot more to do,” Macron said, citing the need to tackle gang violence, domestic violence, drug trafficking and sexual violence .

By 2025, the Saint Roch will become a huge police center, where more than 2,000 national and municipal officers will work with cutting-edge technologies, including video surveillance. Work should start next year.

Macron’s pressure to tackle security concerns at the heart of France’s conservative political landscape appears to be an effort to counter criticism from presidential challengers, including right-wing and far-right candidates who promote a hard line on the issues. of security.

In September, Macron announced measures to make police operations more transparent, including the publication of internal investigative reports and the creation of a parliamentary oversight body, to improve public confidence eroded by the scandals. police officers.

Rights organizations have repeatedly criticized police brutality in France, particularly against members of the country’s racial, ethnic and religious minorities. Like the United States, France has witnessed protests against allegations of racism, injustice and impunity for violence by law enforcement agencies.

Macron said part of the solution is to put more police on the streets and on public transport, especially to tackle violence against women.

“This is where women are most vulnerable and we must do everything to protect them,” Macron said, pledging to double the number of officers dealing with domestic violence to 4,000 in total.

He also called for more training for French police in dealing with victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse and assault, and detailed the application of a controversial law to combat Islamic radicalization.

Three women were found dead on New Years Day across France, allegedly killed by their partners, despite the Macron government’s efforts to tackle domestic killings.

In the French presidential race, Pécresse, former minister and government spokesperson, is the first woman to become a candidate for the presidency of the Republicans. Known as pro-European, Pécresse has hardened its positions on immigration and security in recent months to attract more right-wing voters.

Two far-right candidates – Marine Le Pen, head of the National Rally who lost to Macron in the second round of the 2017 presidential election, and former television expert Eric Zemmour – are campaigning on anti-Islam themes and anti-migrants, accusing Macron of being soft on crime and delinquency.

On the left, the mayor of Paris Anne Hidago of the Socialists and the MEP Yannick Jadot of the Greens present themselves, as well as the far left leader of the Rebel France party, Jean Lue Melenchon, who is running for the presidency for the third time.

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