Screen capture from a video showing the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth (JNR). Several suspects in the fatal attack on Clément Méric have been linked to this group.
Clément Méric, a French anti-fascism activist, died following a violent attack on Wednesday afternoon by a group of skinheads linked to the far-right fringe. This tragic event has focused national attention on the culture of extreme violence in far-right fringe groups.
The attack took place during a clothing sale on rue Caumartin in Paris’s 9th district. The anti-fascism activists made fun of the stereotypical appearance of the skinheads present at the sale (swastika tattoos and “Blood and Honour” sweatshirts in reference to a British neo-Nazi group). The skinheads took offence and cornered the activists in the street. During the fight that ensued, Méric was punched and his head hit a metal pole.
Méric fell into a coma and died on Thursday afternoon. His attackers fled the scene but seven suspects were arrested on Thursday, including the “likely perpetrator” of the fatal blow, according to the French Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls.
Several of these skinheads are thought to be part of the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth, an openly racist and neo-Nazi fringe group founded by Serge Ayoub in 1987. It was dissolved in 1994 but then reactivated in 2010, this time as part of a wider movement called the Third Way. On their YouTube channel, its members post videos of their marches, in which they clearly imitate the fascist movements of the 1930s.
Video of a Nationalist Revolutionary Youth march. Video by Troisième Voie.
Ayoub, who was nicknamed “Batskin” in the 1980s due to his penchant for using baseball bats during fights, still leads the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth. He denied any involvement of his group in the attack, claiming that the skinheads involved had been “harassed by five extreme-left activists who threatened to massacre them once they were outside” the store.
In France, representatives of both left and right-wing parties condemned the attack, and several politicians, including the Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, called for the dissolution of extreme-right fringe groups. The president of the French nationalist party, the “National Front”, stated that it had no connection with the attackers.
A number of memorials were held across France on Thursday night in memory of Clément Méric, notably at Saint-Michel square in Paris.
“It was thrilling to beat someone up to a pulp; to see them on the ground, unconscious”
William Deligny was a skinhead in the 1980s, before “overdosing on violence” and changing his lifestyle to become a Hindu monk within the Gaudiya Vaishnava Congregation in Saint-Étienne du Rouvray.
This attack is just awful, but I can’t say I’m entirely surprised, because violence is the skinhead’s way of life. It is at the root of their beliefs – it is exhibited in the way they dress, in everything they try to convey about themselves.The attack on Clément Méric is fairly typical of the cowardly behaviour of skinheads: they only fight when they know they are in a position of strength. In this case, the two groups were about equal in size, but the skinheads knew that they were far better equipped to fight than the anti-fascism activists. The skinheads are guided by clear rule: they are not allowed to lose. So, they’ll always escalate the violence: if someone resists, they’ll take out weapons, call in back-up, and so on. Attacks always end with the skinheads dispersing and running away, to later meet up somewhere else.“Leftist activists are skinheads’ natural enemies”Ganging up to attack someone is a key aspect of the skinheads’ group mentality. The type of person who joins this movement is very often a distressed, lost person, living at the margin of society, who rejects their family and is looking for something to anchor them. They are deeply frustrated people, who believe their frustration comes not from within but is caused by others. They create enemies to make sense of their own frustrations, which breeds violence. The movement’s leaders reject those who don’t know how to fight, and so violence becomes a way of life. When I was a skinhead, I found it thrilling to beat someone to a pulp; to see them lying on the ground, unconscious.This descent into violence is largely the result of ignorance. About 90% of skinheads don’t know why they hate people different from them, but hate they do. This hate is particularly strong for far-left activists: they are also extremists; they too seek a world where everyone thinks like them. Leftist activists are the skinheads’ natural enemies.This hatred of leftists has only increased over the last two decades. Initially, skinheads weren’t necessarily very political; they were mostly a counter-culture. The movement reacted to the rise of “skinhead hunters” toward the end of the 1980s by latching on to far-right ideas, notably under the guidance of Serge Ayoub.