In a two-part investigation, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit went undercover to expose France‘s far-right youth group Generation Identity (GI) and filmed its activists carrying out racist attacks on young Arabs in the northern French city of Lille.
Below are some key figures in our documentary:
Aurelien Verhassel is the head of Generation Identity (Flanders Branch) and the manager of the Citadelle bar.
His carefully curated media appearances project the image of a professional yet committed politician, yet his activists in Lille speak of his authoritarian rule, severely restricting the freedom of his activists, often by way of violence and intimidation.
He has several convictions for violence, as well as one for the possession of explosive material.
Cyril Wayenburg is Generation Identity’s head of activism in Lille, and Aurelien Verhassel’s de facto number two.
A trainee social worker, Wayenburg has participated in several of the movement’s prominent stunts, including the anti-migrant blockade in the French Alps.
Wayenburg has mastered the nuances of the movement’s discourse and is often seen trying to win new recruits to the group.
When asked how he would respond if his activism with GI became known, he responded: “I would deny it until the end.”
Romuald Matuszak has been with Generation Identity in Lille since 2015.
He rose to prominence after television cameras caught him alongside Aurelien Verhassel attending a National Front election rally in April 2017.
A trainee nurse from the town of Valenciennes, Matuszak has expressed a desire to run as a candidate in his hometown for Marine Le Pen’s party, now renamed National Rally.
During a conversation filmed at his apartment, Matuszak told Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter that he had participated in an action which saw Verhassel and other GI activists filming themselves intimidating migrants in Calais.
Remi Falize is a regular visitor to the Citadelle and an established activist with Generation Identity.
His participation in GI’s local homeless initiatives, distributing food and hot drinks to the homeless, excluding non-native homeless, and his presence in Paris for the banned Defend Europe demonstration in November 2017, mask radical tendencies.
Falize was filmed by Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter striking a young woman in the head with gloves reinforced with hard plastic.
Following the assault, Falize commented: “Girl or no girl, I don’t give a f***, she’s just an Arab.”
Pierre Larti is the one-time spokesperson for Generation Identity and long-standing head of the Paris branch of the movement.
After losing his job in Human Resources, Larti found employment as Chief of Staff of the National Front group at the Hauts-de-France regional council, based in Lille.
Larti’s visibility in the GI movement, leading the annual Paris Pride march and talking regularly with sympathetic journalists, stands in stark contrast with the discretion with which he worked in the party’s offices.
Will ‘Ter Yssel’
Will “Ter Yssel”, a self-confessed “fascist” and “national-socialist”, describes himself as one of Aurelien Verhassel’s “soldiers”.
A member of the LOSC Army, a hooligan group who support Lille’s football club, Ter Yssel (not his real name) drew attention to the Citadelle’s proximity with far-right supporters after photos surfaced of him alongside Yohan Mutte, who is currently under investigation for the murder of Herve Rybarczyk, whose body was found in the Deule river in Lille.
At the time of the investigation, Ter Yssel was serving a stadium ban after members of the LOSC Army were arrested in Bordeaux under suspicions of preparing acts of violence against opposing hooligan fans.
Ter Yssel is a stone cutter by trade and cut the Citadelle logo which sits above the entrance.
Remi Meurin is a close ally of Aurelien Verhassel.
A graduate of political sciences, Meurin has represented his country at the French Consulate in Los Angeles and at the French Institute in Bucharest, Romania.
From 2016, Meurin worked for over a year as an assistant to National Front elected officials at the Hauts-de-France regional council, after GI Lille leader Aurelien Verhassel successfully leveraged his networks to bring him on board.
Despite working in the National Front in order to promote Identitarian ideas, he found that since the departure of moderate Florian Philippot, the work had already been done. “We’ve already won” he said.
Cloe Jelmoni is an activist with Generation Identity Paris and is in charge of the maintenance of their Paris headquarters “La Nef”.
Following the attack by political opponents on the bar, Jelmoni revealed that activists from the violent far-right group the GUD had held discussions with GI Paris about a potential revenge attack on the culprits.
In conversations with an Al Jazeera undercover reporter, Jelmoni admitted that, although GI does not “ally officially” with other far-right groups, it nonetheless shared a significant amount in common with groups like the GUD and Action Francaise, and that its activities were necessarily complementary with the National Front.