French City Braces for Violence After Festival-Goer’s Death
The western French city of Nantes on Friday imposed exceptional security measures amid growing public anger over the drowning of a local man following a violent clash between police and people attending a music festival.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s government is coming under increased pressure and criticism as the death of 22-year-old Steve Maia Canico is becoming a national issue. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner promised Friday that “all the truth will be known” about the drowning due to an administrative inquiry and a judicial investigation.
After Canico’s body was found this week, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said no link could be made between the police operation on June 22 at the festival and his death.
But festival participants disagreed, saying police fired tear gas to get the music to stop and disperse the crowd, causing some people to fall into the adjacent Loire River. Fourteen people had to be rescued from the water.
Castaner acknowledged Friday there were “some questions about the use of tear gas.”
Canico’s supporters planned memorials in Nantes on Saturday but authorities banned them. Regional Prefect Claude d’Harcourt said Friday that police are preparing for “maximum risk” based on intelligence that troublemakers threatened to “steal the moment of emotion” of the gatherings.
The case sparked emotion in the country and prompted criticism on the police operation and authorities’ attitude.
The hashtag #ouestSteve (#whereisSteve) spread on the social media during the five weeks before his body was recovered and 89 people filed complaints against French authorities for “putting other people’s life and security in danger.”
Claims of police violence echoed similar accusations from demonstrators during months of yellow vest anti-government protests that left dozens of demonstrators injured, some losing an eye or a hand. Dozens of police officers have also been injured in the often violent social economic movement that started in November 2018.
Lawyer for Canico’s family, Cecile de Oliveira, told Ouest-France regional newspaper that his relatives are angry at the situation.
“Their grief is damaged by the fact that Steve is being treated as a major political issue,” she said, adding that his family wants his memory to be respected as a “nonviolent and modest young man.”