The board of a Catholic university in western France is to call a dozen students before a disciplinary committee after they were accused of attacking the stand of an anti-homophobia association
Photos from witnesses appear to show a group of young people from ICES Vendée Catholic University tipping over part of the association's stand and snatching balloons and a rainbow flag, the symbol of gay pride.
A campaign to increase awareness of homophobia was set up in the main square of La Roche-sur-Yon for the International Day Against Homophobia on May 18.
One young man yelled threats and pushed a witness's phone to the ground. He was soon joined by others and started chanting "Homofolie, ça suffit!" (Enough of gay love!).
"Two retirees, both Human Rights League of France activists, were pushed and jostled in the incident. They have been given eight and 10 days' leave from work respectively," said Sophie Salacroup, president of the region's LGBT community center.
An investigation has been opened and a dozen students from ICES were questioned by police on May 21.
ICES director Eric de Labarre condemned the attack, describing it as a "brutal act which fortunately did not result in major injury or substantial material damage."
Labarre said his institution is sometimes "spoiled by a radical minority, a handful of very political students who share extreme right views." He added that he and most of his team "have always promoted healthy dialogue and constructive debate."
The incident has tarnished the image of the university, which has seen its number of students jump from 800 to 1,300 in recent years. Despite its success, it continues to be kept at arm's length by the five historic Catholic universities (Paris, Lille, Lyon, Toulouse and Angers) for reasons relating to hierarchy and competitiveness.
ICES said it will take firm action. As well as legal proceedings, the 12 students will face an internal disciplinary hearing on May 28 that could result in them being expelled from the university.
[NOTE: “homofolie” literally means “homocraziness” and has been used by some French Traditionalist Catholics to describe homosexuality]