In a shocking incident over the weekend, a 16-year-old pupil, identified as Thomas, lost his life during a dance party in the village hall of Crepol, located in the southeastern region of Drome.
The event turned tragic when a group of outsiders descended on the festive crowd, resulting in Thomas’s death and leaving eight others injured, three of them seriously.
On Tuesday, authorities detained nine suspects in connection with the murder, with three being minors and the others aged between 19 and 22.
Far-right politicians were swift to place blame on youths from immigrant backgrounds residing in public housing, even before the arrests took place.
The town of Romans-sur-Isere witnessed over 6,000 people marching in memory of the young victim, and tensions escalated when around 40 ultra-right activists gathered in the town center on Sunday. Despite police intervention, clashes ensued on Saturday evening, resulting in injuries and 24 arrests over the weekend.
Local public prosecutor Laurent de Caigny condemned the “unacceptable violence” and called for calm and respect, emphasizing the importance of allowing investigators to work within the bounds of the law.
Thierry Devimeux, the prefect of the Drome region, also denounced the violence and reported an activist being attacked and his vehicle burnt.
After 96 hours in police custody, the suspects were transferred to the Valence courthouse on Saturday. The public prosecutor’s office initiated an investigation into charges, including attempted murder and “murder in an organized gang.” Nine individuals have been placed under investigation, with six in custody and three under judicial supervision.
While more than a hundred witnesses have been questioned, the motive and details of the crime are yet to be fully established.
The preliminary investigation suggests that an altercation inside the dance hall, possibly related to a remark about a suspect’s hairstyle, spilled outside. Additional individuals arrived at the scene, and witnesses reported hearing remarks against “white people.”
Despite claims by the far-right branding the assault as anti-white racism, the prosecutor, de Caigny, clarified that, at this stage, the investigation cannot confirm that the victims were targeted based on their race, ethnicity, or religion. Most suspects admit to being present in Crepol but deny involvement in the stabbing.
The funeral of the young victim, attended by around 2,000 people in the village of Saint-Donat-sur-l’Herbasse on Friday, reflected the community’s grief and solidarity. Meanwhile, far-right figures like Marion Marechal seized on the incident, labeling it as “anti-white racism hitting our countryside.”
As tensions persist and the investigation unfolds, authorities stress the need for restraint and adherence to the rule of law.
The tragedy in Crepol has not only claimed a young life but has also ignited broader debates surrounding the nature of the incident, exacerbating existing social and political divisions in the region.