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  8.  » France: Police asked to stand down during Ramadan

Michael Lord – Voice of Europe April 29, 2020

French police on the streets of Strasbourg. Click to enlarge

A leaked internal document shows that police in the French department of Calvados have been asked to “show restraint” in dealing with migrants during Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, which began on April 23.

The document, which is dated April 24, was sent by the Director of Calvados’ Department of Public Safety to all branches of the police in the region, which is in Normandy. A copy was obtained by the French newspaper Le Parisien and reported on their website.

Police are being asked only to intervene in cases of “assaults on people,” or where there is “serious property damage” during Ramadan. The note specifies that police should not take action in “neighborhoods that have a high concentration of people during Ramadan,” such as “controlling a group of people who have gathered to eat after sunset” in violation of lockdown and social distancing measures intended to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The document says that such restraint is necessary “in order to prevent a breach of the lockdown rules from degenerating and leading to an even greater incident of urban violence.”

In cases where police receive calls from concerned citizens about such incidents, police are instructed to tell people only that “their call has been taken into account,” and that officers should “take care not to comment.”

Some of France’s police unions are outraged that this document emerged at the same time that the government has been increasing the punishments for those who violate the lockdown, creating a double standard. “Contrary to what the government has stated and repeated, this note proves that the police are being instructed not to go into certain areas,” Fabien Vanhemelryck, a representative of the police union Alliance, said.

In response, France’s Chief of Police demanded explanations after the contents of the document were publicized. In a message the National Police sent to the AFP, they reassured the public that officers “will intervene anywhere to ensure the safety of people and property, whatever the circumstances.” He requested that Calvados’ Department of Public Safety provide an explanation for the document.

It is not known if similar instructions have been issued in other French departments.

French cities have been gripped by a particularly strong outbreak of street violence in recent weeks, with attacks on police and other first responders becoming commonplace, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.