- Article 25 of the proposed law on “global security” authorizes the police to carry their weapon out of service in establishments open to the public.
- This measure is welcomed by the police unions, who have been asking for it since the 2015 attacks.
- But eight organizations from the world of culture signed a statement to express their concern. For them, the presence of weapons in theaters or performance halls constitutes “a serious danger”.
One controversial article can hide another. Deputies and senators reached an agreement on Monday on the proposal for a comprehensive security law, which will be able to be adopted definitively shortly. Its article 24, the objective of which is to protect the police in operation, had crystallized criticism and aroused an outcry among journalists. It has since been rewritten, without raising concerns. But another article, passed more unnoticed, for its part arouses the ire of those in charge of cultural establishments. In a joint statement released at the beginning of March, they explain that article 25 constitutes “a serious danger”.
This article provides that police officers and gendarmes who carry a weapon while not on duty cannot be refused “access to an establishment open to the public”. A measure requested by the police union organizations since the Paris attacks in 2015. “It’s a good thing,” says Frédéric Lagache, general delegate of Alliance police nationale. According to him, the presence of armed agents in a concert hall can ensure the safety of spectators in the event of an attack, such as at the Bataclan, and “avoid the worst”. “Some colleagues were already doing it, but were sometimes turned away,” he regrets.
“Not the right solution”
But the cultural sector is not of this opinion. “We do not have the skills to control the identity of the police officers and to check the validity of a professional card which they would carry”, explains to 20 Minutes Vincent Moisselin, director of the Union of artistic and cultural enterprises. In addition, their weapon “could be visible at one time or another and cause a movement of worry, even panic”. And the official added: “The directors of establishments open to the public have a close policy of consultation with the police services on ordinary security issues. This has all worked very well so far and does not require a change of this nature. “
“Having armed people in festivals, music halls does not seem to be the right solution”, adds Alexandra Bobes, director of France Festivals. “We still live in a democratic country, in which weapons are prohibited,” she adds. The police and gendarmes who would come armed would do so “outside working hours”. “It’s still quite worrying. “
New actions to plan
Frédéric Lagache believes for his part that the police are “24 hours a day”. The trade unionist recognizes that “if the weapon is visible, it can be scary”. But, according to him, the important thing will be to “put in place a protocol, a system of identification of the police officer” to avoid any problem inside.
Professionals in the cultural sector do not intend to stop there. “We are going to try to do something”, underlines the director of France Festivals. “We think about how we can educate politicians and the public to try to go back, even if the chances of doing so are complicated. “