Protesters Sentenced for Torching Police Car

Violent Protest

On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, a judge in Paris handed down sentences to a group of protesters who participated in what he called an "urban guerrilla scene."

The incident in question took place in May of 2016, at a time of anti-government protests which often resulted in violence against police officers. When the police held a demonstration against this violence, a counter-demonstration against police brutality was set up meters away. A group of these protesters then broke away and, dressed in black and often with their faces covered, converged on a police car stuck in traffic, attacking the officers inside and ultimately setting the vehicle on fire.

Videos of the incident can be found on Youtube and have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. They shows one of the protesters kicking in the driver's side window, while another throws in a smoke bomb, which ultimately caused the flames. The driver, Kevin Philippy, was also physically assaulted by the group.

The judge, Alain Alcufrom, clearly took a dim view of the protesters' action. "You attacked a policeman because he was a policeman," he bluntly told one defendant, Antonin Bernanos.

The defendants of the trial include:

  • Antonin Bernanos, age 23, is a far-left activist who attacked Philippy while he was still in the police car. He received a sentence of five years, including a two year suspended sentence.
  • Nicolas Fensch, a self-educated computer programmer, attacked Philippy with an iron bar when he emerged from the car. During his trial, Fensch apologized to Phillippy and, having already served several months in detention, is now free from prison.
  • Kara Brault, an American national, who took an iron bar to the car. She received four years in jail, with two suspended.
  • Joachim Landwehr, a Swiss national, received the longest sentence, seven years, for throwing the smoke bomb that destroyed the car. However, he has been on the run since the incident and was tried in absentia.

Two other defendants, including the younger brother of Bernanos, were acquitted during the group's September trial, which lasted five days.

Antoine Vey, the attorney for Fensch, called the sentence "severe" but says that his client is glad that he will now be released from prison.

About forty protesters were outside the courthouse during the sentencing, held back by a few dozen police officers; thankfully, in this instance, there was no actual violence.

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