French protests target president's anti-crime proposals

Crowds swarmed central Paris square and other French cities Saturday to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's anti-crime proposals. In Paris, more than 50 human rights groups led protesters through the one-and-a-half-mile stretch between the Place de La Republique to the historic Place de la Bastille, where demonstrators hung a stained French flag at its central monument.

Demonstrators also made historical references to France's contentious role in World War II, holding up signs such as "Sarkozy, son of Petain," referring to Marshal Philippe Petain, who led the pro-Nazi Vichy regime.

The rallies criticized Sarkozy's recent anti-crime proposals, which protest organizers say are "strategies of stigma and discrimination."

After anti-police attacks, the country's parliament is considering laws to take away French citizenship from naturalized immigrants guilty of crimes like attacks on police, polygamy or female circumcision.

But some believe Sarkozy's approach of blaming immigrants for security problems flies in the face of France's democratic fundamentals -- liberty, equality and fraternity.

"He is not fighting crime... He is deliberately putting into question the basic principles of republican equality, and what is already an extremely serious social and economic crisis now threatens the cohesion of all society," a group of 50 organizations supporting the protests said in a statement posted on the Education Without Borders Network's website Saturday.


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