French mayor apologises for comparing modern-day police to WWII Vichy regime
A French mayor has expressed "regret" after comparing modern-day police to the Vichy regime during World War II.
In a viral video dated July 20, Patrick Chaimovitch, a mayor in north-west Paris, can be heard making the comparison during a commemoration of Vel d'Hiv, which saw police round up French Jews in Paris in July 1942.
Chaimovitch, from the Europe Ecology – The Greens (EELV ) party, later tweeted that he was "making the connection" between Vichy and "migrants who were hunted down all over Europe because they were different".
The statements were strongly condemned by French authorities and the prefecture de police described the comments as "unacceptable".
On Sunday, France's interior minister Gérald Darmanin also denounced "scandalous and unbearable remarks" towards the police and gendarmerie and threatened to file a complaint if they were confirmed.
In a statement on Monday, Chaimovitch sought to clarify his comments and expressed "regret" at the confusion caused.
"Of course, there is no comparison for me between the police and gendarmerie of a democratic state and the police and gendarmerie of the Petainist state," the mayor said.
"I will never say that the fate of migrants can be compared to the fate of the Jews who were promised extermination.
"The past must prompt us to defend the rule of law and to be vigilant against all human rights abuses."
In July 1942, around 13,000 Jews were arrested at their homes by French authorities under the Vichy government and sent to concentration camps, from where many never returned.
On July 16, 1995, Jacques Chirac was the first president to acknowledge France's responsibility for the deportation of Jews during the Second World War.
"These dark hours sully our history forever and are an insult to our past and our traditions,” Chirac said in a speech at the Square des Martyrs du Vel d'Hiv in Paris.
And in 2015, France made public around 200,000 historical documents to shed more light on the so-called Vichy regime.
In his statement, Chaimovitch also reiterated his support for the police and the responsibility they hold.
"I regret that my words may have led to confusion with the Republican police and gendarmerie because I am a strong supporter of respect for the rule of law."
But his explanation has not been received well by all, including France's police commissioner unions.
"This mayor, who was barely elected in Colombes, now embodies the shame of the republic with his infamous comments and is already disgracing his mandate," the union of national police commissioners said on Twitter.
"He is a disgrace to the Republic... comparing the current police officers with those of the Vichy regime is unworthy," the independent police commissioners' union also tweeted.
The Alliance union called for a rally outside the town hall in Colombes, and also announced that it would file a civil suit if a complaint was made.
An EELV MEP Yannick Jadot has reiterated on Twitter that Chaimovitch himself regrets the choice of words.
"EELV is a republican party that cannot tolerate any deviation from the principles and values on which our Republic is founded," Jadot tweeted.