How half a year in a state of emergency has affected France

How half a year in a state of emergency has affected France

On May 19, the French Parliament extended the state of emergency in France until July 26. The state of emergency had been first put in place on Nov. 14, 2015, the day following the terrorist attacks in Paris. It was then extended to Feb. 26, then to May 26, and it was finally extended for two more months.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve justified this extension “due to the persistence of the terrorist threat and the forthcoming international events,” (such as the Tour de France or the Euro 2016).

Paris. Credit: AFP/Remy Gabalda

Paris. Credit: AFP/Remy Gabalda

The state of emergency changes life for the general population. It undermines the freedom to come and go, enforcing curfews and restricting access to and from certain areas. As part of France’s security plan, called Vigipirate, an increase in identity checks has also led to an increase in the number of police and military patrols.

Security for residents is strengthened; people with “fiche S,” which marks individuals who are considered a threat to national security, can be forced to stay in the French territory if their behavior betrays possible violence against the public order. Under the state of emergency, raids can take place during day or night, whereas under normal circumstances searches on premises only occur between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Finally, the state of emergency allows the dissolution of organizations that gather and affect public order, such as demonstrations against labor laws. Even stronger than the changes in citizen rights, the state of emergency has a moral significance.

Summer in France is known for gatherings such as Musilac, Montjoux and Les Vieilles Charrues (music festivals), the Tour de France, the festival WoodScop (about the social and solidarity economy). These festivals are a place of joy and entertainment where people are happy and peaceful. However, this clashes with the violent and insecure feeling of being under a state of emergency.

Police and emergency forces participate in the simulation of a terrorist attack in the Stade de France in Paris May 31. Credit: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Police and emergency forces participate in the simulation of a terrorist attack in the Stade de France in Paris May 31. Credit: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Still, French people are positive and prefer to be under a state of emergency while a sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads. Some citizens are glad that the state of emergency has been extended. “ With all those important gatherings in France, there is a real terrorist threat in terms of grouping of people,” Catherine Liénard, a 49-year-old teacher in Haute-Savoie, said. “Police patrols and military forces must do everything to ensure security and enable life to proceed normally, respecting the rule of law.”

She sees the state of emergency as a temporary measure. “This extension ensures more democracy and freedom in a difficult state,” she added. “It guarantees security to citizens.”

To prepare for a future terrorist attack and to test the coordination of national intervention forces, a terrorist attack simulation was held at the Stade de France. Police forces and emergency services were not aware of this test-run and did their best to save as many lives as they could.

“We anticipate the means that we need so that on the d-day everything works well,” Gabriel Plus, the spokesman of the Paris Fire Brigade, said. “We can only hope that France will never have to use this training.”

Cover credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV

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