French city cancels renowned market festival over terrorism concerns

The northern French city of Lille cancelled Friday its annual Braderie street market festival, citing security concerns after a series of terrorist attacks that have shaken the country.

Describing the decision as difficult and painful, Lille Mayor Martine Aubry said she had reviewed security measures and prepared to take extra precautions, after an attack in Nice during Bastille Day celebrations in mid-July left 85 people dead.

But Aubry said she ultimately decided to suspend this year's festival out of a "moral responsibility" to avoid injuries or deaths, saying that the risks could not be entirely eliminated.

"It's not possible to retain the conviviality and the spirit of the Braderie with armed men everywhere," Aubry said, citing the difficulty of checking vehicles coming in and out of the festival and the ease with which one violent person could create havoc in the crowd.

More than 2 million visitors normally attend the annual street festival on the first weekend in September, which is the largest flea market and antiques fair in Europe and has been held since the 12th century. Thousands of sellers also come out to display their wares over miles of city streets.

The Braderie is one of many festivals cancelled across France over the summer due to concerns about terrorism. Cancellations have also been announced for fireworks shows, concerts, outdoor film screenings and dance parties. The southern city of Grasse cancelled its jasmine festival.

While more than 230 people have been killed since the beginning of 2015 by attackers claiming allegiance to jihadist extremist groups, the latest largescale attack saw revelers mowed down along the Riviera city of Nice's seaside promenade after they watched a fireworks show for France's national day.

The latest victim in that attack died on Thursday evening from his wounds, bringing the death count to 85.

In the days following Bastille Day, a political spat broke out over whether there had been sufficient security measures in place to thwart such an attack. A police commission that looked into the security preparation eventually put some of the accusations to rest.

But France remains jittery, with politicians saying the country is "at war" while some 10,000 soldiers patrol the streets and the reserves of the gendarmes police are deployed. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve recently promised that summer events would take place under high security.

He added, however, that while every precaution would be taken, it was still up to the discretion of local authorities to decide whether they fall short of maximal security and need to cancel.

Last update: Fri, 05/08/2016 - 14:34
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