French police arrested retired general Christian Piquemal and 19 other protesters at a banned anti-migrant rally in Calais.
The 75 years old general was a former member of the French Foreign Legion from which he was the head from 1994-99. He was also deputy head of the military office for three Socialist prime ministers: Michel Rocard, Édith Cresson and Pierre Bérégovoy. Moreover, until two years ago, he was president of the National Union of Parachutists.
The events took place on Saturday 6 February in Calais, which it’s home to a refugee camp, also called the “Jungle” hosting more than 3,700 people hoping to cross the Channel to reach the UK.
Anti-migrant but also anti-Islam, the rally gathering about 150 people was organised by the German far-right group Pegida, which is opposed to what it claims is the “Islamisation of the west” through immigration. The group called for several rallies around Europe last weekend, including in Birmingham, UK.
Therefore, the French minister of interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, prohibited the rally under the national state of emergency, which is still in place.
Leading the demonstration, general Piquemal said to the Police, after singing the national anthem:
“I expected you to be at attention, singing with us, but not one of you opened your mouth. And this is France – the great France, the eternal France, which used to be the lighthouse of the world. It is in decline. Decadent. 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.”
Meanwhile, the crowd chanted slogans such as “this is our home”, “dictator state”, “journalist collaborators” and “migrants out”.
This Monday, the general and four other rally leaders had to be brought in front of a judge in a speedy procedure. Piquemal was arrested for “taking part in a gathering which did not disperse after warning” whereas the four other men were arrested for carrying illegal weapons including a Taser gun, knuckle dusters and a knife. They face up to one year in prison if convicted.
However, in the morning, general Piquemal was transferred to the hospital for health reasons. According to his lawyer, the audience will be held on 12 May. The four other men were condemned with three months of imprisonment for detention of Taser guns.
Reacting to the arrests, several personalities from the French Far-right party, Front National, expressed their support to General Piquemal. MP Marion Le Pen said on twitter “Support general Piquemal: unfairly and brutally arrested in Calais” and Gilbert Collard said “Piquemal, in France patriotism becomes a crime: honor to the general!”.
On the contrary, other politicians, such as Dominique Bussereau, said it was a grave mistake from a former superior officer to take part in an extremist demonstration, prohibited by the state of emergency.