Well, um… Of course French police and politicians lied and smeared UK football fans. That’s what they do In France, the violence meted out at the Champions League final and the cover-up that followed were tragically familiar Spoiler : There is a proverb in French: “A quelque chose malheur est bon.” It roughly equates to “Every cloud has a silver lining.” In that sense – and I mean no offence, above all, not to Liverpool supporters – I think something positive emerged from the fiasco of the Champions League final in Paris on 28 May, when the club’s fans were unfairly blamed for chaotic and terrifying scenes outside the Stade de France. It is that the world finally knows that there exists a country where people who cause no trouble – including children who had simply come to watch their idols play football – can be teargassed and abused by police for no justifiable reason. A country where those exercising the highest political office are able to peddle absolute nonsense in an attempt to extricate themselves from the controversy, without fear of consequence. That country is mine, France. At last, amid continuing outrage, with British and Spanish officials and politicians, and thousands of fans and families, still calling for apologies and explanations, the world can perhaps understand what we French journalists have been trying to document for several years, most notably since Emmanuel Macron arrived in office in 2017. Here are but a few examples. On 1 December 2018 in Marseille, 80-year-old Zineb Redouane was struck in the head by a teargas grenade when she went to shutter a window in her fourth-floor flat because of a demonstration taking place in the street below. Video images pointed to the firing of that grenade by a police officer. She died the next day in hospital. The police never identified the officer who fired the grenade, and the government did nothing. On 23 March 2019, in Nice, 73-year-old Geneviève Legay, a feminist and anti-capitalist activist, was peacefully taking part in a demonstration against Macron and his government. When a police charge caused her to fall, she suffered serious head injuries, including bleeding on the brain. “This woman had had no contact with the forces of law and order,” declared Macron two days later. With contempt, he added: “I wish her a swift recovery and, perhaps, a sort of wisdom.” He had lied – a judicial investigation established she was indeed a victim of the police action. For having revealed details of the case, a journalist with the investigative team I co-lead at Mediapart was summoned for questioning by police. Again, the government did nothing. On 21 June 2019 in Nantes, Steve Maia Caniço, 24, joined a dance party on a quay beside the River Loire during France’s yearly music festivities, the Fête de la musique. During the night, the police violently attempted to disperse the partygoers, causing 14 of them to fall into the river. The body of Maia Caniço was discovered in the water one month later and the initial police report concluded his death was unrelated to the police charge. A judicial investigation has since found to the contrary. The government, again, did nothing. I could also mention how police forced a group of school pupils protesting about education reforms to kneel on the ground with hands behind their heads like prisoners of war, or incidents of police hitting firefighters during a demonstration over working conditions, and dragging protesting nurses along the ground. Not forgetting the 30 people who lost an eye, and six others who lost a hand, during the “yellow vest” protests – and all those times when the government did and said nothing. But when it does say something, this is what it sounds like. In March 2019, Macron, apparently inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, said: “Don’t talk about police repression and violence, such words are unacceptable in a state of law.” In February 2020, Macron’s then interior minister, Christophe Castaner, infamous for having once falsely claimed that May Day demonstrators “attacked” a Paris hospital, declared: “I like order in this country and I defend the police … And in my words there are no ‘buts’. I defend them, and that’s all.” And what can be said of the comment by Castaner’s successor, Gérald Darmanin, who blamed the Champions League disturbances on “industrial-scale” ticket fraud and said more than 30-40,000 Liverpool fans had fake tickets or no tickets outside the stadium. Speaking before parliament in July 2020, Darmanin pronounced: “When I hear talk of police violence, I choke.” The remark was particularly cynical, made just two months after the death of George Floyd in the US after his neck was compressed by a police officer, and six months after the death in Paris of deliveryman Cédric Chouviat who, in a roadside police check that got out of hand, cried out “I’m suffocating” seven times to officers lying on top of him. The message I want to send here is that behind the loud controversy that continues to surround the Champions League final, the violence and the near disaster, lies the silence of a familiar, practised French strategy. It ensures wrongdoing is never punished, and police offenders are never brought to book. Fabrice Arfi is a French journalist with co-responsiblity for investigations at the website Mediapart tl;dr: nope.