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French local mayors facing wave of violence, says association

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By Emma Beswick
The gate is pictured outside a town hall in France.
The gate is pictured outside a town hall in France.   -   Copyright  Image by SatyaPrem from Pixabay   -  

France is seeing increasing assaults on its local mayors, an association representing them has warned.

Five "violent attacks" have been carried out on municipal officials in the country since the start of July, the Association of Mayors in France (AMF) said.

As many as 233 acts of aggression had been recorded by the start of August 2020, with 198 reported on the same date in 2019 — an increase of 14%, according to Interior Ministry figures obtained by French weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

The association said the acts of aggression over the summer "unfortunately illustrate the climate of insecurity" that mayors face when carrying out their duties.

Each assault "is an attack on our democratic and republican values," the AMF wrote in a statement on its website.

Gerard Due, mayor of Croisilles in the north of France, was attacked on August 7 when he intervened after locals complained about people making noise in the streets of his town.

"Like a lightning bolt, I didn't see it coming," he said of the violent act. "My back was scratched, so was my elbow and my wrist was hurt."

In 2019, the mayor of the southern French town of Signes was killed while tackling fly-tippers.

Jean-Mathieu Michel, who had been in office for 36 years, died after he was run over by two people he confronted for dumping rubble by the side of the road.

The AMF said it wanted the "entire judicial chain to be truly aware of the reality of the hardships encountered by elected municipal officials, some of whom intervene on a daily basis."

The body demanded that the perpetrators of violent acts against mayors be systematically prosecuted.

It also called for the "rapid development of measures aimed at strengthening the authority of the elected representatives because they are democratically appointed by the French people."