A bus driver who was dragged from his vehicle and attacked by passengers who refused to wear mandatory face masks has died in southwest France.
Philippe Monguillot, 59, died in hospital last Friday. Having been left brain dead following the assault in the city of Bayonne on the 5th of July, Monguillot's family decided to switch off his life support machine.
"We decided to let him go," Philippe's 18-year-old daughter, Marie Monguillot, said on Friday. "The doctors were in favour, and we were as well."
Under coronavirus guidelines, it is illegal to use public transport in France without wearing a mask. After asking three unmasked passengers to wear a mask, and trying to check another passenger's ticket, Monguillot was forced off the bus. Outside, according to prosecutors, the attackers "violently kicked and punched the upper part of his body, including his head".
Five men have been arrested in relation to the killing, two – who are known to police – aged 22 and 23 for attempted murder, two for failing to help a person in danger, and a fifth for hiding a suspect.
France's Prime Minister, Jean Castex, called the attack "cowardly" and said the case has "touched our hearts", tweeting of Monguillot on Friday, "The Republic recognises him as an exemplary citizen and won't forget him. The law will punish the perpetrators of this despicable crime."
Last Wednesday, Monguillot's wife, Veronique, led hundreds of people – all of whom wore white – through the streets of Bayonne to remember her husband and demand justice. Mrs Monguillot said in a meeting with France's Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, "We must bang a fist on the table so this never happens again. It's barbaric, not normal. We must stop this massacre."
In response, Mr Darmanin said: "The bus driver was only doing his job. He left his home in the morning and did not come back, leaving a widow and three orphan girls. It is an absolutely odious act."
Monguillot's colleagues refused to work after the killing, but have returned Monday with reinforced security, including a guard who will travel aboard the so-called Trambuses – long buses operating in Bayonne and the local countryside.
Mr Monguillot's death is the most extreme reflection yet of people refusing to wear masks and face coverings to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Despite the fact masks have been shown to slow the spread of the virus, anti-mask protests have been held across America, where President Donald Trump was photographed on Saturday wearing a mask for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
Also on Saturday, in Florida – currently the coronavirus capital of the world – dozens of anti-maskers gathered for a rally at the 33 & Melt bar in Windemere, whose owner believes COVID-19 is merely media-driven hype. There, they spread misinformation and got basic facts wrong when interviewed by reporters.