France launches massive police operation for week of high-profile events

France  REUTERS/Charles Platiau
© REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France is mobilising thousands of police officers from Monday as it prepares for several high-level events this week, including a royal visit from Britain's King Charles III and the Pope's trip to Marseille, as well as the ongoing Rugby World Cup.

France is at the start of "a particularly intense week in terms of public order" that requires an "exceptional mobilisation" of security forces, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin was quoted as saying in a bulletin sent to regional authorities at the weekend.

The British king and queen arrive in Paris on Wednesday before heading to Bordeaux on Friday.

And Pope Francis I will hold mass at the Marseille Vélodrome on Saturday, with French President Emmanuel Macron in attendance. 

The weekend also sees the next round of matches in the Rugby World Cup, which France is hosting across several cities, and activists have called for protests against police brutality.

Darmanin called for reinforcements to protect the high-level visitors and the public, as well as preventing criminals seeking to "take advantage of these circumstances" to commit violence while police are busy securing big events.

Police forces will be ramped up through the week to culminate in 30,000 officers on the streets on Saturday, including anti-riot squads and military police.

According to the Interior Ministry bulletin seen by Franceinfo news radio, 8,000 police officers will be deployed on Wednesday, 10,000 on Thursday, 12,000 on Friday and more than double that number on Saturday. 

Protests against police violence

Demonstrations against police violence and racism have been called on Saturday in Paris and other cities, a continuation of the protests that broke out after police shot dead a 17-year-old driver on the outskirts of the capital at the end of June. 

The shooting triggered days of rioting and revived long-standing accusations of discriminatory policing in France's impoverished, ethnically mixed suburbs.

Around 100 groups, including left-wing parties, trade unions and activist associations, are taking part in the first marches to be organised since riots died out in July. 

Paris also hosts the Techno Parade the same day.

Along with international rugby matches in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyon and Nice, several Ligue 1 football fixtures fall next weekend – including a match between arch-rivals Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille in Paris on Sunday.

France was sharply criticised for its policing of the Champions League final at the Stade de France last year, when riot police teargassed spectators and then sought to blame visiting fans for the chaos.