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A French teen faces possible prison time after an incendiary Snapchat he posted, calling for a Halloween-night “purge” and violence against the police — inspired by dystopian Hollywood horror film The Purge and its sequels — caused a national uproar.
On Oct. 29, a 19-year-old from Grenoble set off the panic with a Snapchat post that went viral. In the film franchise, all violence is legal one night a year. It has also been turned into a USA Network series.
After the teen’s message started drawing attention, others began posting rules of the suggested purge, inspired by the film. The national police union quickly filed a complaint with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who responded on Twitter.
“Calling a ‘purge’ against our police is calling for murder,” he wrote, adding that legal action would follow. “The purge is not a joke, the purge is a threat,” he later said in a statement.
Appeler à la “purge” contre nos policiers, c’est appeler au meurtre.
Et cela, je ne l’accepterai jamais. Une plainte a été déposée à mon initiative pour que ces comportements fassent l’objet de poursuites judiciaires.
— Christophe Castaner (@CCastaner) October 29, 2018
As the uproar grew, the inciting teen made another Snapchat post denouncing the message. “The purge was a huge joke and an invention on my part! It took on too much scale so I decided to announce to all my snap that it was a joke! There will be no purge in Grenoble, Paris, Geneva, Lyon, etc.,” he wrote, urging followers to watch his story and to retweet his message.
However, the damage had already been done. He was arrested and will be tried in the criminal court of Grenoble on Nov. 28 for “public provocation of willful attack.” He faces five years in prison and a $51,500 (€45,000) fine. A second teen, 16 years old, was placed in custody for relaying the message.
While Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in France, the holiday has become marked by violence in recent years.
Overall, 15,000 police were deployed across the country in anticipation of Halloween violence, with 116 arrests across the country. In Lyon, police fired tear gas at masked youths in the city center who shattered shop windows and set garbage cans on fire. Looting was also reported in Seine-Saint-Denis, a poor suburb north of Paris. In Strasbourg, teens threw bottles at police. “Our teams were attacked by young people claiming to be part of the ‘purge’ movement,” local police said.
Despite all of this, the French government stated that Halloween damage this year was down from the past. “The damage is much lower than we have known in previous years,” Castaner said, noting that it is still “totally abnormal, [and] scandalous.”
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