Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

French police march through Paris in protest against new chokehold ban

Global protests over George Floyd’s death have sparked Paris police to defend use of force

Members of French police union Alliance Police Nationale sing the national anthem in front of the Elysee Palace during a protest against the French Interior Minister's latests announcements. AFP / Thomas SAMSON
Members of French police union Alliance Police Nationale sing the national anthem in front of the Elysee Palace during a protest against the French Interior Minister's latests announcements. AFP / Thomas SAMSON

French police marched through Paris on Friday to protest against the government's new ban on the use of chokeholds.

The decision to ban chokeholds is part of the French government's efforts to stem police brutality and racism after global protests over the death of George Floyd’s in the United States.

The demonstration is being held near the Champs-Elysees, which was the scene of violent clashes with protesters only a few months ago.

Police are protesting over what they see as a lack of government support and limits to what they can do during arrests.

They have taken issue with any implication of systemic racism among French police.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said earlier this week any “strong suspicion” of racism would be punished, in response to investigations into racist comments on closed Facebook and WhatsApp groups for police.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said too many officers "have failed in their Republican duty" in recent weeks. AFP
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said too many officers "have failed in their Republican duty" in recent weeks. AFP

Friday's protest was small but highly visible, with honking, flags and blue smoke billowing under rainy skies.

It came after police outside Paris laid their handcuffs on the ground outside some police stations.

Police unions met on Thursday and Friday with Mr Castaner to discuss changes to police tactics after the minister announced on Monday that police would no longer be taught to seize suspects by the neck or push on their necks.

Mr Castaner stopped short of banning another technique – pressing on a prone suspect’s chest – that also has been blamed for leading to asphyxiation and possible death.

Such immobilisation techniques have come under growing criticism since Floyd’s death. But French police say the new restrictions go too far.

“He doesn't even know what he's talking about,” said Jean-Paul Megret, a police union leader.

“Sometimes you can't just ask people to follow you to be arrested. Every day, you're dealing with people who are completely insane.”

France has seen several anti-police protests sparked by Floyd’s death and another is planned for Saturday.

Friday's protest on the Champs-Elysees was striking because the avenue was repeatedly the scene of violence between police and the “yellow vest” protesters late last year.

France's interior minister banned police from using chokeholds to detain suspects and has promised "zero tolerance" for racism in law enforcement. AFP
France's interior minister banned police from using chokeholds to detain suspects and has promised "zero tolerance" for racism in law enforcement. AFP

Last week, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation into racist insults and instigating racial hatred based on comments allegedly written in a private police Facebook group.

Website StreetPress released a string of offensive messages that it said were published within the group, though acknowledged that it is unclear whether the authors were officers or people pretending to be police.

Separately, six police officers in the Normandy city of Rouen are under internal investigation over racist comments in a private WhatsApp group. Both incidents have prompted public concerns about extreme views among French police.

Updated: June 12, 2020 04:17 PM

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