‘Everyone hates the police!’ Teargas used as anti-Le Pen protest in France descends into violence

Riot police were forced to use tear gas to contain a protest staged by anti-fascist and far-left union protesters in Nantes in western France. The demonstration was initially organized against a speech by the National Front leader Marine Le Pen scheduled for Sunday.

According to RT’s Jonathan Moadab, the demonstrators, many of whom wore hoods and masks, threw smoke bombs and even a Molotov cocktail at officers, who had summoned a water cannon to the central square. At least one officer has been taken to hospital after receiving a burn to his leg, according to the regional newspaper Ouest-France, which said that two people have been arrested, and three more taken to a police station for identification.

Une banque barricadée avant la grande manifestation contre le FN à Nantes

French media reported earlier that radical activists, including anarchist groups, were traveling to Nantes from across the country. Public transport into the city through the main streets had been suspended on Saturday afternoon, while owners put protective paneling over shop windows.

Les manifestants lancent des feux d’artifice et des cocktails Molotov sur la .

The demonstration, comprising what authorities estimated as more than 2,200 people, began under the supervision of a police contingent of between 500 and 600, with several units bussed in as reinforcements from neighboring regions.

During the initial, peaceful part of the rally, activists carried signs bearing slogans saying “No to Le Pen” and “No fascists in our neighborhood,” though there were also cries of “Justice for Theo,” a popular slogan during the recent spate of riots in Paris that followed the alleged brutal treatment of a black suspect named Theo. Many of the activists also carried Communist symbols and trade union flags.

“We are here to tell Marine Le Pen that it is not welcome at all in the West and Nantes in particular. We are a land of solidarity and social progress, and we do not want the lies of Marine Le Pen,” said Anthony Lemaire of the CGT union.

It appears that the clashes began after several participants launched several flares, covering the procession in thick smoke. Many in the crowd began chanting “Everybody hates the police!” At that point, a smaller group of mostly young male activists, covered head-to-toe in black track suits, with some armed with sticks, separated from the bulk of the protesters and began engaging the riot police.

Several hurled flares directly into the closed shields of the cordon, while others pelted officers with stones. There were also several running battles, with protesters coming closer and directly clashing with uniformed officers, before retreating to a safe distance.

Photographs spread on social media of several cafes and shops with broken windows, and spray-painted tags on walls and monuments.

The National Front said the attempts to foil Marine Le Pen’s rally ahead of April presidential election, for which more than 2,000 people were expected, was an attack on free speech, and called for a firm police response.

“As usual the far-left fascist rabble rampages and burns. We will soon arrive to restore order to France!” said FN Vice President Florian Philipot after news arrived of the public disorder in Nantes.

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Today’s Poland unworthy of EU, as it infringes on rule of law – Luxembourg FM

Today’s Poland unworthy of EU, as it infringes on rule of law – Luxembourg FM
The current Polish state would not have been accepted into the EU, as it fails to meet the bloc’s key criteria, such as being a democratic and a lawful state, Luxembourg’s foreign minister said, accusing Poland’s authorities of restricting the rule of law.

“Today’s Poland under Jaroslaw Kaczynski could no longer become a EU member,” Jean Asselborn told German Tagesspiegel daily, blaming Poland’s president for pushing his country away from core European values and gearing towards a national state.

“He believes that the EU is a brake pad for Poland. He wants to create a right-wing conservative social order based upon the concept of a national state,” the politician said, describing the leader of the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party as an “ideologist.”

In the pursuit of this strategy, the “government in Poland is getting more and more involved in restricting in the rule of law,” Luxemburg’s foreign minister argued, adding that it may have been encouraged by Hungary.

Back in December, some members of the European Parliament suggested that Poland could be stripped of its EU voting rights in response to its government encroaching on the independence of the country’s judiciary and freedom of assembly. However, Asselborn believes this proposal is unfeasible, as it would likely be vetoed by Hungary.

The PiS government under Kaczynski has been drawing heavy criticism from Brussels for its controversial overhaul of Poland’s constitutional court, which led to a standoff resulting in the court losing much of its power due to modified decision-making processes.

However, Poland’s president has brushed off this condemnation as unwarranted meddling in his country’s internal affairs.

“It amuses me, as this criticism has nothing to do with the current state of our country,” Kaczynski said in July of last year, in commenting on the possibility of the EU imposing restrictions on Poland.

Poland’s desire to distance itself from the EU will not ultimately bring it any benefits, Asselborn believes, as the country risks losing the financial support of the bloc.

“Poland sets itself on the slow track in the EU. One must not forget: currently, the country’s benefits from the EU subsidies amounts to four percent of its GDP,” he noted.

Asselborn is known for courting controversy by making sharp statements. Last year, he proposed kicking Hungary out of the bloc for treating refugees “nearly as bad as animals.”

READ MORE: EU MPs debate stripping Poland of voting rights after new law restricts public meetings

“Anyone who, like Hungary, builds fences against refugees from war or who violates press freedom and judicial independence should be excluded temporarily or, if necessary, forever from the EU,” he said in September.

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US to send F-35s to MidEast to fight ISIS in ‘not too distant future’

US to send F-35s to MidEast to fight ISIS in ‘not too distant future’
The US Air Force is mulling deploying F-35 fighter jets to the Middle East to step up efforts in battling Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) terrorists sometime in the future, although the specific date is not set yet.

The deployment could take place in “not so distant future,” General Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, the outgoing head of the Air Combat Command, told journalists on Friday in Washington, DC. He also stressed that the Air Force is already discussing the first deployment of the new aircraft to the Central Command.

“It would deploy as an asset for the [Combined Forces Air Component commander] at Al Udeid [Qatar], so he would use it as he would see fit, and I would certainly expect it to participate in operations just like the F-22 is today,” he said, as cited by Military.com.

He drew attention to the fact that the F-35s enhanced sensor fusion capabilities and the situation awareness could greatly contribute to conducting successful air strikes in Iraq and Syria by particularly decreasing the risk of mid-air collisions with Russian warplanes operating in the same area and detecting surface-to-air threats.

If you look at portions of Syria, it’s a pretty dense surface-to-air threat inside that arena,” he said, as cited by Defense News. He added that both the US and Russia deploy air defense systems in the area to protect their facilities and assets.

“They’re not illuminating our aircraft with any type of target tracking radars or anything like that in large numbers, or to any great extent that I know of… But their radars are active,” he added, referring to the air defense systems deployed by Russia to Syria.

However, Carlisle said, “The Middle East deployment isn’t imminent, it’s planned for a few years out,” adding that small detachments of F-35s would be sent to Europe and Asia-Pacific region first. That deployment that could tack place as early as this spring would show if the new jets are ready for combat deployment, as well as whether the F-35 maintenance and logistics infrastructure is mature enough to support such operations.

According to the US Air Force, Russian planes allegedly don’t “squawk” (carry transponders that send a four-digit number allowing air-traffic controllers to identify them), and fail to timely answer “guard calls,” which are urgent summons on an emergency radio frequency.

Earlier, senior US Air Force officers accused Russian jets of flying dangerously close in Syria, provoking an angry reaction from the Russian Defense Ministry. In January, Moscow for its part issued a statement, saying the US Air Force and the US-led international coalition attempted to act “secretively” during operations in Syria.

“Our American colleagues don’t like to notify [us] about their plans to use combat aircraft, only occasionally indicating the time period and an approximate area. But not the specific types of aircraft and their affiliation,” the statement said at that time.

The mutual flight safety memorandum, agreed by the US and Russia in October 2015, regulates the flight paths and contacts of the countries’ air forces in Syria during an emergency situation. The two countries also set up a hotline for their militaries to discuss the approximate locations and missions of planes in an attempt to avoid operating in the same airspace at the same time.

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