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Les Vitrolles (Municipality, Bouches-du-Rhône, France)

Last modified: 2005-12-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: bouches-du-rhone | vitrolles | tower (yellow) |
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[Flag of Vitrolles]

Municipal flag of Vitrolles - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 16 July 2005

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Presentation of Vitrolles

The municipality of Vitrolles (37,087 inhabitants) is located 25 km north-west of Marseilles, on the eastern shore of the pond of Berre.

The medieval village of Vitrolles was built around a rock (in Provencal, roucas - see the French word rocher) topped by a Roman chapel and a watch tower. In the XVIIIth century, the new city developed in the plains located near the pond of Berre. Vitrolles houses today one of the biggest commercial zone in the South-East of France. Until recently, it was mostly known as a place crowded with shopping malls, industrial parks (240 ha) and trailer parks.

Vitrolles made the headlines in 1995, when the Socialist Mayor was reelected with only 335 votes more than his opponent Bruno Mégret, then member of the extreme-right party Front National (FN). In 1996, the State Council cancelled the election and found Maigret ineligible because he had not respected the law limiting the amount of money used in electoral campaigns. In February 1997, Catherine Mégret, succeeding her husband as the chief candidate for FN, was elected Mayor of Vitrolles with 52.5% of the votes. Vitrolles was then, along with Toulon, Orange and Marignane, one of the four French cities of significance ran by FN.
The Mégret left FN in 1999 following a quarrel with the historical FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and founded the Mouvement national républicain (MNR). In March 2001, Catherine Mégret was reelected Mayor of Vitrolles with only 205 more votes than her main opponent. The State Council cancelled once again the election in June 2002 because MNR had released a libellous leaflet against the candidate of the right parties. On 6 October 2002, the Socialist Guy Obino, supported by the left parties, the associations of the city and members of the right parties, was elected Mayor of Vitrolles with 54.05% of the votes.

During their five-year rule in Vitrolles, the Mégret applied the extreme-rightist ideology. They attempted to suppress the associative life in the city, cutting the funds allocated to the associations Le Sous-Marin and Moulin à jazz, walling up the entrance of the Café Musique and firing the director of the municipal cinema Les Lumières, because she has shown a film on AIDS and organized a public debate on that topic. In September 1997, Catherine Mégret decided to rename the city Vitrolles-en-Provence, following the attempts by FN to attract regionalists; several street names were changed, including the Nelson Mandela square renamed Marguerite de Provence square. In January 1998, Catherine Mégret went too far and decided that the municipality would grant 5,000 FRF to any newborn from French or European Union parents, in order to promote the "national preference". She was sentenced for discrimination to a three month in jail deferred sentence, a fine of 15,245 € and was found ineligible for two years. in April 1997, the municipal youth workers were fired, as were 84 helpers and contractors. Moral and physical pressure was exerted on the municipal executives who did not agree with the FN ideology, so that 50 left the municipal administration, which was completely desorganized. The Regional Accounting Office reported several errors and deliberate frauds in the management of the municipality, including an arbitrary increase by 20% in the price of water and the sending of letters promoting Bruno M&e&cutegret for the preisidential election to all the French Mayors.


Ivan Sache, 16 July 2005

Municipal flag of Vitrolles

The municipal flag of Vitrolles, as photographied there, is diagonally divided (per bend sinister) yellow-red with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The arms of Vitrolles (then called Vitrolles-lès-Martigues) are shown in Bresc's Armorial [bjs94] as:

D'or, à une tour de gueules, sur une terrasse du même.

That is:
Or a tower gules on a terrace of the same.
The illustration given by Bresc is much less stylized than on the modern flag, and the terrace looks more than a rock. This is of course a representation of the medieval tower dominating the village of Vitrolles.
The arms of Vitrolles are registered in the Armorial Général (Arm. I, 904; bl. II, 1360, registration fee, 20 louis).

The arms given by GASO and Brian Timms for Vitrolles-les-Martigues are misattributed; they are indeed the arms of the homonymic village of Vitrolles, located in the Alps near Barcelonnette. And there is a third homonymic Vitrolles located in Provence, too, near Pertuis. The arms of the three Vitrolles feature a rock.

Dominique Cureau & Ivan Sache, 16 July 2005