PARIS (Reuters) – Police staged protests in cities across France against a ban on chokehold restraint techniques imposed by the government in response to public anger over the death of George Floyd and alleged police brutality in France.
In Paris on Friday, police unions parked dozens of vehicles at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe before processing down the Champs Elysees boulevard. One van carried a poster reading “No police, no peace”. Another carried graphic images of injuries sustained by police officers attacked in the line of duty, with the words: “Who is massacring who?”.
The protests followed a meeting between police unions and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner meant to try and allay the simmering police anger.
The unions told the minister the chokehold saved lives and was a technique that officers needed at their disposal until a suitable alternative was found, Fabien Vanhemelryck of the National Police Alliance said after the meeting.
“The second thing we told him was to stop buying social peace … where we appease a certain part of the population at the expense of the police,” Vanhemelryck told reporters. “The police are not responsible for all the evils of society.”
In the Paris suburb of Bobigny late on Thursday evening, officers lined up outside the police station and threw their handcuffs to the ground. In Lyon, police parked their cars around the central Place Bellecour, blue lights flashing.
Accusations of brutality and racism against French police remain largely unaddressed, rights groups say.
One “of the strongest critics of police brutality in France is the actress Camelia Jordana, who said: There are thousands of people who do not feel safe in front of a policeman in France. And I am one of them. Today I have straight hair. But when I have curly hair, I don’t feel safe in front of a cop.”
Writing on Twitter, Castaner dismissed her comments: “This kind of deceitful and shameful statement feeds hatred and violence. They merit unmitigated condemnation.” However, his comments have achieved little in pacifying the police.