The Celtic League strongly condemns the violence of the French police in the arrest and detention of members of the 44=Breizh collective in Nantes, Brittany last Saturday (25th April 2009).
The violent apprehension and arrest in particular of the spokesperson of 44=Breizh, Jonathan Guillaume, in a crowded restaurant among families with children, by a troop of French riot police, is an example of heavy handed policing of an extreme nature. Mr Guillaume, who had attended a demonstration earlier on in the day to protest about the political repression experienced by activists from the Pays de la Loire region who seek a return of the Loire Atlantique to Brittany, was hit with truncheons and handcuffed while he was talking to a journalist on the phone in the restaurant. The riot police also hit and arrested other customers in the restaurant after the owner asked the police to leave, leaving onlookers, including children, terrorised.
Mr Guillaume said:
"Sans que je m'y attende un policier me fit une clef de bras en me passant les menottes, j'eu à peine le temps de comprendre ce qui se passait que je vis des coups de matraque pleuvoir autour de moi avant d'être violemment projeter au sol. Menotté et un genou de policier posé sur le visage j'entendais autour de moi des cris et des bruits de verre sans discerner ce qui se passait. Une fois relevé, j'eu le temps d'apercevoir un camarade la tête en sang et l'enfant d'un ami terrorisé qui pleurait. »
(Without expecting it a police officer grabbed me in an arm lock and handcuffed me and I had hardly any time to realise what was going on when truncheon blows rained down on me, before I was violently pushed to the ground. I was handcuffed and the knee of police officer was pressed into my face...I heard cries around me and the noise of glass breaking, without even fully understanding what had happened. Once I was raised up I saw a colleague with his head covered in blood and the crying child of a terrorised friend.)
The police arrived en masse at the restaurant following the afternoons demonstration where windows of shops in the high street had been smashed by the protesters. The 44=Breizh collective, who are adamant that they had nothing to do with the broken windows, stated that as soon as the trouble on the high street started they left the main body of 400 demonstrators in order to protect the loud speaker sound system in their car.
After the arrest of Mr Guillaume and others at the restaurant, a group of 40 demonstrators gathered outside Waldeck-Rousseau police station, where the arrestees had been taken, where they waited for news for several hours. However, those arrested were not released until after over 16 hours of questioning and two were summoned to appear at Nantes court on 14th October 2009 charged with resisting arrest. Several people were wounded in the police attack at the restaurant and one person was hospitalised. The 44=Breizh collective is calling on anyone with photos or video footage of the arrests to come forward. The group also intend to make a formal complaint to the police authorities about the way its members were treated.
If nothing else, the actions of the police on Saturday show that demonstrators are right to express their concern about the repression of activists campaigning for a reunified Brittany. Mr Guillaume has himself been detained and interrogated by the police four times already this year.
J B MoffattDirector of Information
J B MoffattDirector of Information