France's 'evil clown' trend causing havoc
French police are on high alert after bogus clowns caused panic across France in a spreading phenomenon that has led to violence and a response by vigilantes.
Last Saturday 14 teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying pistols, knives and baseball bats were arrested outside a school in Agde, southern France. One provincial newspaper, the Dauphiné Libéré, wrote: “These clowns aren’t funny any more.”
In Montpellier, a 35-year-old man was beaten with a metal rod on the Saturday night by a man dressed as a clown who, together with two accomplices, tried to rob him. They were arrested the following day.
A 19-year-old butcher’s apprentice, who had dressed as a clown to terrorise children in Douvrin, northern France, was given a six-month suspended prison sentence at a court in Bethune last week.
Real clowns are dismayed by the trend. “The best thing that could happen is that people stop talking about them,” said Philippe Herreman, who belongs to an association of specially trained clowns who visit hospitals and care homes.
Herreman, who runs a team of eight clowns in northern France called the Clowns of Hope, said he hoped the evil clowns would soon disappear.
But the trend, fuelled by Facebook and other social media, is spreading, prompting police to issue a national appeal urging people to report the bogus clowns.
Some people have taken the clown hunt into their own hands.
Police in Bordeaux recently stopped a dozen youths who were carrying sticks and rods and said they were hunting clowns. One was a 12-year-old boy armed with a dagger.
In eastern France, five people were arrested in Mulhouse last week after setting out to catch the evil clowns.
The impostors have told police they are inspired by viral videos from the United States.
The trend has also surfaced in Britain, where a false clown was unmasked as a student and filmmaker from Northampton.
“It’s a terrible development,” said professional clown Franck Dinet. “It’s not enough to put on a costume and stage a happening – you need to have an artistic goal.” – © Guardian News & Media 2014