latimes.com It was a typical Saturday night at the Pepper Grill, a halal burger and Tex-Mex restaurant in the Parisian suburb of St.-Ouen-l'Aumone. Staff were busy serving customers when police in full body armor, carrying rifles and riot shields, poured into the sleek red dining room. Video from the restaurant’s surveillance cameras shows startled diners spinning around in their chairs. Police instructed them to remain seated and place their hands on the tables while they forced open doors with battering rams. “I offered them the keys,” said the restaurant’s indignant owner, Ivan Agac. “They didn’t even answer me.” After searching the premises for about half an hour, the officers thanked Agac and left, he said. Local officials confirmed that nothing untoward had been found. Such seemingly heavy-handed police operations have been drawing attention in France after 130 people were killed in shooting and bombing attacks in Paris, prompting the introduction of a rash of security measures. The national state of emergency declared by French President Francois Hollande within hours of the Nov. 13 bloodbath gave the security services broad powers to go after suspected extremists. Across the nation, police have been breaking down doors, interrogating residents, detaining suspects or placing them under house arrest — all without a warrant or orders from a judge. A week after the attacks, the French Parliament voted to expand the emergency powers granted under a 1955 law — enacted during France’s war in Algeria — and extend the state of emergency for three months. The new regulations make it easier for the authorities to shut down mosques, community associations and websites deemed to pose a threat to public order. At least three mosques accused of “preaching hate” have been closed since last week.
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