Gerald Darmanin, a close ally of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, was appointed by President Emmanuel Macron in a government reshuffle this month as the French leader sought to show he is tackling the law and the ‘order.
The minister traveled to Nice on Thursday to visit the Moulins district, where drug gangs clashed in broad daylight in front of a supermarket on Monday, firing assault weapons after police arrests and heavy drug trafficking a week earlier.
“Those who want to bend the Republic will pay the price,” Darmanin told reporters, echoing a similar response from Sarkozy when he was interior minister nearly 15 years ago.
Since taking office, Darmanin has repeatedly defended the action of the police and rushed to the scene of several criminal incidents.
Macron, who faces a presidential election in less than two years, has been criticized by opponents for crime and public safety since taking office in 2017 and opinion polls show the public view his government as the weakest on these issues.
Prime Minister Jean Castex, who will also be visiting Nice this weekend, pledged concrete measures after what he called “unacceptable” acts.
Some areas around some of France’s largest cities became no-go areas for police after dark, officials, politicians and experts said. Drug and arms trafficking as well as prostitution are destroying many housing estates, officials and analysts said.
A series of public safety incidents since the end of the COVID-19 lockdown in mid-May has put the government on heightened alert in the face of rising crime amid the economic fallout from the pandemic.
The perceived weakness of the government on this issue could benefit the far-right National Rally, which supporters see as tougher on these issues.
Written by John Irish; Editing by Frances Kerry
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