From our special correspondent
No banner. No portrait of the deceased. Only a few police officers put on their armbands. In front of the Avignon police station, Sunday 9 May afternoon, the tribute to Brigadier Eric Masson, 36, killed on May 5 in the performance of his duties, takes place in a heavy calm. At the foot of the police station, the forecourt is bustling with police and residents. The brigadier’s family did not wish to be present. At the entrance, three notebooks of grievances adjoin flowered wreaths, bouquets of white roses and candles heckled by the mistral. A long queue stretches out onto the boulevard. “Long live the police! “, proclaims a person in the audience immediately followed by heavy applause. The Marseillaise is intoned in unison by the crowd.
On the evening of May 5, Eric Masson, father of two, was killed by two bullets in the chest during an intervention at a drug point of sale in the rue du Râteau. The shooter and his accomplice have not yet been found, and the custody of a witness was lifted on the morning of May 9.
This Sunday, all the police unions wanted to unite in an inter-union to pay tribute to their colleague. At the foot of the steps of the police station, alongside other members of the police, Bruno Bartocetti, union representative of the SGP Police unit, warns: “This inter-union block is rare. Unanimously, we say to all elected officials that we want to stop being instrumentalised and that they too must come together on the subject of security. Today we are sounding the alarm bells. “
In the crowd, silence falls. The faces, masked, are lowered. A few sobs escape. “We are touched in our flesh, our brother in arms lost his life in a banal control, testifies, on the sidelines of the crowd, Sébastien Greneron, a police officer from Marseille. It could have been all of us. “ The banality of this control is undoubtedly what most frightens the police officers present. The rue du Râteau, where the drama took place, does not have much of a bad street. It is not the nest of a known narco-banditism. It is bordered by flowered planters and a small central square where a grand ball takes place every year in June. “Happy, with lots of children”.
But, in recent years, the district has seen a few small drug sales outlets set up. Regularly hunted down and questioned, the dealers come back. The interventions follow one another, here, as elsewhere. “The government is putting in reinforcements. It’s good, but it’s not enough, resumes the Marseille policeman. Justice does not follow. The delinquents are no longer afraid of us. Fear must change sides. “
Getting together today is important to him. “But, deep down, we’re fed up with marches and rallies, he blurted out. The morale of the troops is at its lowest. “ The death of agent Stéphanie M., in the Rambouillet attack on April 23, is remembered. « When we get home, we have to reassure our loved ones. It has become something very hard that is beyond the boundaries of our work. It weighs more and more on us ”, worries Bruno Bartocetti.
“We are peacekeepers, he continues. We are neither soldiers nor warriors. Our role is to appease and defend the population. Today, we are asked a lot. Terrorism, demonstrations, drug trafficking, everything rests on our shoulders. And this, with a culture of results. We are tired. ” Aware of this tense context, Jean Castex, who has already announced an additional 10 million euros to strengthen the security of police stations, will receive the police unions on Monday.
At the end of the afternoon, Sunday, the square gradually empties, while a portrait of Eric Masson is finally placed in front of the police station. A few hours earlier, this Sunday, the bells of the Saint-Agricol collegiate church, the Notre-Dame-des-Doms cathedral and the Saint-Didier and Saint-Pierre churches had sounded, in his homage, at the initiative of the diocese . On Wednesday, the funeral will take place in the grounds of the Bédarrides church.