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Nice attack: French President François Hollande calls for “flawless vigilance"

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Hours after a truck driver drove into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, France, killing at least 80 people and injuring dozens, French President François Hollande announced that the country must display "absolute determination and flawless vigilance," saying he would call up the military’s operational reserves and extend the French state of emergency.

The "terroristic character" of the attack "cannot be denied," Hollande said. "It is clear that we must do everything we can to fight against the scourge of terrorism."

"France was hit on the day of her national holiday, the 14th of July, symbol of liberty, because the rights of man are denied by fanatics and France is inevitably their target," Hollande said, alluding to one of the foundational French documents, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

Hollande announced three measures to put the country on its highest state of alert:

  • France will keep in place at least 7,000 members of the military who have been deployed since January 2015 to protect critical sites around France such as synagogues, schools, and metro stations, as part of what’s known as Opération Sentinelle.
  • He will call up the country’s operational reserves — all those who have at one time served in the military or been active duty police — to help support those deployed as part of the operation. He stated in particular that reinforcements would focus on securing France’s borders.
  • He will continue the state of emergency put in place after the Paris attacks on November 13, which was scheduled to expire later this month, for three additional months. The state of emergency grants the state broad powers to restrict civil liberties in the name of domestic security, including ordering warrantless searches and shutting down demonstrations and public gatherings.

The identification of the driver of the truck is still in progress, but Hollande made clear who he thinks is behind the attack. All of France, he said, is under the threat of "Islamist terrorism."

"France is strong," he said. "And she will always be stronger, I assure you, than the fanatics."