Clément Méric, an 18-year-old gay rights activist, was left brain dead after a vicious attack by a group of three skinheads in Paris Wednesday evening. Méric was known for his radical left-wing activism and is believed to have rallied for France’s recently-passed marriage equality bill, tension over which has often led to violence.
The attack on the teen has provoked horrified reactions across the country. According to The Local:
A number of eyewitness reports, as well as a police source quoted by TF1 television, indicate that a group of left-wing activists had gone clothes shopping on Wednesday evening on rue Caumartin in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.
After far-right activists entered the same shop, there was an angry exchange of words and insults. When the group including Meric left the store, the extreme-right group had “brought reinforcements.”
The victim was hit by a man wearing what appeared to be knuckle dusters, and fell to the ground, hitting his head on a bollard, according to initial reports.
French President François Hollande said he “condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms,” in a statement while on an official visit to Japan. “I have given the most rigorous possible instructions so that the authors of the odious act can be arrested at the earliest possible juncture.”
The Left Party blamed the attack on the neo-Nazi skinhead group JNR (Jeune Nationaliste Revolutionnaire), which angrily denied any involvement. Left Front leader Jean-Luc Mélénchon has called for all far-right extremist groups be disbanded, saying they “have committed numerous acts of violence in Paris and across the country.”
A vigil and rally against violence is planned in honor of Méric tonight in Paris.
UPDATE: France 24 is reporting that Méric has died. Video has surfaced of Méric marching in a pro-gay rally in Paris this past April while holding a banner that translates to “homophobia kills.”