Ex-French Foreign Legion commander arrested at anti-Islam rally, due in court on Monday
General Christian Piquemal, a respected former French Legion commander, is among the dozens arrested during Europe-wide protests against the ongoing migrant influx.
The arrest at the PEGIDA rally in Calais on Saturday was one of 20, and came as clashes erupted between the ‘anti-Islamization’ group and the police in the French port city. The troubles kicked off after the authorities canceled the planned rally.
The crowd booed the police, as they tried to get Piquemal and drag him away.
The former commander led the Legion from 1994 to 1999.
A crowd of 150 protesters gathered downtown with banners and slogans, among them: “This is our home.” They waved the French flag and sang the national anthem, only several days after the government had banned protests.
Piquemal, 75, tried to rally the group in support of PEGIDA’s right-wing cause.
He spoke to the crowd and was quoted by Le Monde as saying: “There are things that have to be respected, including the national anthem - the Marseillaise - when it is sung.”
He slammed the police for not respecting the song and lamented how “France is in decline. I regret that you received these orders. You are forced to obey your orders, but you don’t have to behave this way in the field.”
Far-right French politicians were also in attendance in support of Piequemal.
Piquemal was charged with “participation in an unlawful assembly which did not dissolve after warning.” Four people in his entourage were also charged with possession of weapons, including a knuckle-duster and a Taser gun.
All five will face up to a year in prison, and are due to appear in court on Monday.
“Some groups began to circulate in the city center, mainly far-right, neo-Nazi types,” Etienne Desplanques, a regional official, told AFP.
Although the police issued warnings to disperse, the crowd refused. This resulted in the use of tear gas and other riot gear. Several scuffles took place as arrests were made.
“We have had a series of arrests, in all about 20,” Desplanques said, adding that the number could be higher.
As the number of illegal immigrants in France is constantly grows due to a policy of open borders, the authorities are becoming less powerful against them, Republican party MP and former transport minister Thierry Mariani told RT, rejecting police actions as “double standards.”
“I am shocked not by the policy, I am shocked by the order given by the government, just like many French, because it is a sort of a double standard,” Mariani said. “We have, in this moment in Calais, thousands of illegal immigrants, with many people from extreme left who help them – and we see that the government does nothing against them. And when a guy, 75, one of the most important army chiefs, who was the chief of the Foreign Legion, just [participate in] a protest, he was immediately arrested by 20 police officers.”
The situation in Calais is a “nightmare” for the population, Mariani said, insisting that the only solution to relieve pressure on the city is for Europe to start properly controlling its borders.
A French politician and a friend of General Piquemal, Yvan Blot, told RT the authorities made a “big mistake” by arresting him instead of simply “inviting him to the prefecture for a discussion.”
Blot also noted the double standard in French authorities’ treatment of illegal refugees and participants of illegal march.
“This anti-refugee rally was against people [living] on the French [territory] against the law. So these people are there [in violation of] the French law. I am surprised to see that all these people are free and the general, who was against this situation, was arrested.”
Piquemal, Blot believes, will most likely face a fine but is unlikely to be jailed, as his detention could “could provoke a revolt” by the people already angry at the government’s policies toward illegal immigration.
“Two thirds of the citizens in France are against the immigration [in current] numbers,” Blot told RT. “People think, there are too many immigrants. Majority of them are here in violation of the French law. Majority of population is against the governmental policy, which is seen as weak, and angry with the government.”
Despite tactics by authorities aimed at eradicating the makeshift and slum-like camps, some 3,700 migrants continue to live in the northern port city, in a camp just on the outskirts known colloquially as “the Jungle.”
In the southern city of Montpellier, 200 people showed up to protest the migrant situation.
Across Europe, tens of thousands of people marched in 14 countries, which involved violent clashes.