France: Police protest against chokehold ban, racism accusations | News | DW | 12.06.2020
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France: Police protest against chokehold ban, racism accusations

A chokehold ban planned by France's interior minister has prompted nationwide police protests. Officers in Paris downed handcuffs and displayed a banner declaring "no police, no peace."

French police paraded through central Paris Friday displaying graphic images of injuries suffered by law enforcers as their unions told Interior Minister Christophe Castaner that without restraint methods they were be left ineffectual.

Their protest along the Champes Elysee followed a leftist-led rally Tuesday in Paris critical of policing tactics that drew at least 2,400 people as global outrage continued over last month's killing of African-American George Floyd in the United States.

Similar French protests last Saturday drew more than 20,000 people in several cities as rights groups, including SOS Racisme, continued to highlight the 2016 death of Adama Traore, a 24-year-old man born in the Paris suburb of Beaumont-sur-Oise with Malian-French background, in police custody. 

Three officers were subsequently cleared in a report despite admitting having pinned the 24-year-old black man to the ground with their combined body weight. 

Read more: France grapples with racial injustice and police violence

Handcuffs tossed to the ground

On Thursday evening in Paris' Bobigny suburb, officers of the union Unite SGP Police FO threw their handcuffs to the ground, one of several symbolic protests outside police stations.

And, in Lyon, police parked their cars around the central Place Bellecour, blue lights flashing.

Meeting Castaner, French police unions asserted that the chokehold method — shown in graphic video footage from Minneapolis — was needed until a suitable alternative method was found.

Watch video 04:13

Anti-racism demonstrations in France

Fabien Vanhemelryck of France's National Police Alliance said Castaner had been told by union representatives to "stop buying social peace" at the expense of police being injured while enacting law enforcement.

"The police are not responsible for all the evils of society," Vanhemelryck added.

"They want to prevent us from working," exclaimed Unite SGP Police FO representative Yves Lefebvre on BFM television.

"Mr. Castaner appears to have heard us, but not heard us enough," Lefebvre said.

Read more: George Floyd killing spurs fresh protests across Europe

'Zero tolerance' for racism

On Monday, Castaner said the chokehold method would "no longer be taught in police and gendarmerie schools," adding there would be "zero tolerance" for racism in law enforcement.

He reportedly stopped short of banning another technique — pressing on a suspect's chest.

France's police watchdog said last year it had received 1,500 complaints against officers — half of them for alleged violence.

Last week, media outlets published entries of a private Facebook group on which French police members allegedly used racist and sexist terms and mocked victims.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Tuesday there had been a "very big, very legitimate, widely shared" outpouring of emotion after Floyd's death. 

ipj/mm (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa) 

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