PARIS — All over France, from Toulouse in the south to Paris and beyond, the police have been breaking down doors, conducting searches without warrants, aggressively questioning residents, hauling suspects to police stations and putting others under house arrest.
The extraordinary steps are now perfectly legal under the state of emergency decreed by the government after the attacks on Nov. 13 in Paris that left 130 dead — a rare kind of mobilization that will continue. The French Parliament voted last week to extend the emergency for three more months, which means more warrantless searches, more interrogations, more people placed under house arrest.
There have been 1,072 police searches already and 139 police interrogations, and 117 people have been placed in custody, the Ministry of the Interior said on Monday. Those included a weekend raid on a restaurant selling halal burgers and Tex-Mex food in the Paris suburbs, where officers found nothing suspicious after breaking down the doors.
Many of those being swept up are among the hundreds of French who have already been flagged as potential security threats in the notorious S-files of the security services. The police are now free to pick up and interrogate suspects virtually at will.
An indication of the lingering shock of the attacks — and the fear coursing through French society — is that few, publicly at least, are protesting these exceptional measures. But critics of the broad net now being cast by the security services say the results are meager given the looming threat to civil liberties.
Concern is rising, particularly in Muslim communities being singled out, that France now runs the risk of tipping steeply in favor of security at the expense of individual freedoms and of instigating tension with a Muslim population — the largest in Western Europe — that has already long felt aggrieved and second class.
“These measures are going to place a spider’s web over all of France,” said Danièle Lochak, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Paris. “But in a discriminatory manner, because it will concern Muslims. It’s out of control. What are they going to do with all these people who are under house arrest?” The answer, so far, is not clear.