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Chaos at the Stade de France: a more cyclical than structural failure in maintaining order


L’failure of the security system put in place on Saturday during the Champions League final is attributable to a lack of “anticipation” and “adaptation” more than to an inappropriate policing doctrine, judge researchers and specialists interviewed by AFP.

Spectators without tickets who climb the gates, families and supporters sprayed with tear gas, other victims of robberies or assaults around the Stade de France: the organization and attitude of the police before the Real Madrid-Liverpool match were singled out on the Spanish side and, above all, in England.

“All this would not have happened if there had not been all the extremely poorly managed problem of the flow of people”, explains to AFP Mathieu Zagrodzki, researcher specializing in internal security.

The authorities should indeed have anticipated, with the RER B strike, a massive transfer to the RER D of spectators who found themselves stranded at a cramped and poorly calibrated pre-filtering point.

“This access being completely blocked, we had to make quick decisions” but “there, apparently, it took an hour” to decide to lift the pre-filtering and thus blow the plug, continues Mathieu Zagrodzki.

General Bertrand Cavallier, former director of the National Gendarmerie Forces Training Center in Saint-Astier, also deplores a difficulty in “adapting” the system.

“Disproportionate reaction”

The RER B strike was planned and the intelligence services had alerted the authorities, two days before the final, of the arrival in Paris of around “50,000 English supporters without tickets”, some of whom were likely to access the Stade de France.

Bertrand Cavallier also points to a “big problem of upstream analysis and anticipation”, in particular of an “environment marked by high delinquency”.

“Perhaps the police who were in the fan zone should have been moved to the Stade de France, once it had been noted that everything was going well there”, analyzes a police source who denounces a “lack of preparation” and “information not taken into account as it should have been”.

In addition, according to a senior officer of the gendarmerie, the police headquarters had involved neither the gendarmerie nor the CRS in the preparation of the security system “while the majority of the personnel deployed around the Stade de France were gendarmes” .

This senior officer also regrets the “omnipresence” of politicians on this type of event.

“What does a minister (that of the Interior Gérald Darmanin and that of Sports Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, editor’s note) do in the command room” of the Stade de France?, he asks. “There should only be the chain of command, under the authority of the person responsible for public order, that is to say the prefect, and that everyone can carry out their mission”.

Then, according to Mathieu Zagrodzki, when the problematic pre-filtering point was lifted, resulting in an influx of supporters on the forecourt, “there is a disproportionate or in any case untargeted reaction”.

“We indiscriminately gas the crowd knowing that inside there are both free riders and people who have acquired their ticket legally”, he underlines.

Loss of habit

However, continues the researcher, “the job of the police is not only to disperse the crowds but also to do it with discernment and to have a legitimate behavior from a democratic point of view”.

However, believes General Cavallier, it would be “a shortcut to say that it is a problem of the concept of maintaining order in the French way”, pointed out in particular during the crisis of “yellow vests”.

“The unanimously noted failure” of the device “does not call into question the competence of the specialized units, the mobile gendarmes and the CRS, which are at a recognized level”, he continues.

Could the police have done it differently? “English and Germans have dialogue teams, CRS or mobile gendarmes neither helmeted nor in offensive gear, who go into contact with the crowd to explain the situation to them, what to do and what not to do”, explains Mr. Zagrodzki.

“It helps to appease the spirits and to focus its intervention on the troublemakers and to carry out targeted arrests. But it is not in the French approach”, he regrets.

With the proliferation of travel bans for supporters during Ligue 1 matches in recent years, the police “have lost the habit – and therefore the know-how – of managing these crowds” of supporters, notes sociologist specializing in security issues Sébastian Roché.

05/31/2022 23:01:23 – Paris (AFP) – © 2022 AFP

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