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Historic street market in northern France cancelled over security fears

Philippe Huguen, AFP | Archival pictures shows visitors attending the annual Lille flea market in northern France in September 2011

One of Europe's oldest and biggest street markets, in the northern French city of Lille, has been cancelled over security fears, mayor Martine Aubry said Friday.


The annual market, which dates back to the twelfth century, is a huge tourism draw and attracted 2.5 million visitors to the city in 2015.

Aubry said that the decision to cancel the event – known as the ‘La Braderie de Lille’ - was prompted by "risks we cannot address”.

The Socialist mayor of Lille said, “It’s heart wrenching to make this decision.”

“But to have sharpshooters on roofs at the market, riot police on each street corner and helicopters and drones flying overhead would not be in the spirit of the market,” explained Aubrey, who sought to run for president of France in 2012.

Economy versus security?

However, the decision has sparked fury in some quarters.

Thierry George, head of the northern French UMIH trade and hospitality union, slammed the decision as “incomprehensible”.

“It was taken without any thought for the economic impact and it’s going to be very bad for Lille’s image, especially abroad,” the union leader told AFP. “I appreciate there is no such thing as zero risk, and that we are in a state of emergency, but we could have found a way to let the market go ahead.”

State of emergency in France

France is still reeling from a spate of terrorist atrocities that began with the January 2015 attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and recently saw 85 people killed after a man drove a truck into a crowd of revellers gathered for Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

Two weeks after the atrocity in Nice, jihadists killed Father Jacques Hamel at the altar of his church in Normandy as he was about to give Mass.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) group has claimed all the attacks.

The announcement in Lille follows other similar cancellations, including a fireworks show in the western city of La Baule and an air show in Marseille.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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