The French government sees the police as guardians who guarantee citizens can peacefully protest President Emmanuel Macron’s divisive rise in the retirement age.
Yet, to human rights activists and protesters who were clubbed or gassed with tear gas, police have exceeded their authority.
Some law enforcement officials have been charged with using unnecessary violence in the months since widespread demonstrations against the proposed pension changes erupted in France.
A police grenade in Rouen took a woman’s thumb, and a man in Paris lost a testicle to an officer’s club. When grenade shrapnel struck a train worker, they lost an eye.
Where has humanity gone? “Get up and leave!” a woman yelled at police in Paris as they punched, kicked, and profanely reprimanded a guy who appeared to be destitute.
A witness at the scene last month near the Place de la Bastille was seen in a video posted on Twitter helping the man to his feet.
The violence fuels public ire and hinders efforts to open up a conversation between the government and labor unions, organizing an 11th round of large-scale protests for Thursday.
Once Macron decided last month to force a bill to raise the retirement age through the lower chamber of parliament without a vote, the protests, which started in January, picked up steam.
The usual French expression “forces of order”—referring to law enforcement—has been reversed. The issue is whether police stand for law and order or force.
Angered by the negative press, authorities have switched to damage management by praising security officers.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin stated on RTL radio on Wednesday that “police violence” does not exist while denouncing “individual acts” of policemen who use excessive force.
“Can’t we occasionally acknowledge the order’s details? “he begged.
Police brutality worries have spread beyond France.
In a generally peaceful protest movement, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights, and the Council of Europe — the continent’s primary human rights authority — were among the organizations that cited disproportionate police aggression.
Sebastian Roche, a security forces specialist with France’s National Center for Scientific Research, claims that French police use weaponry at illegal protests in much of Europe, such as stun grenades and rubber bullets.
According to Roche, it is dangerous to combine demonstrations with potentially mutilating weaponry because “the temptation will be extremely high to use these armaments,” especially if police are confronted with a barrage of projectiles, including Molotov cocktails.
Roche cited instances in which protesters were held in large numbers and then released without being charged the following morning as evidence that the method is “at once highly violent” and in some respects illegal.
According to associations of attorneys and magistrates, such actions constitute an abuse of the law.
A demonstration on March 23 in Paris resulted in the arrest of over 100 people, including 20-year-old student Jonas Cardoso.
“With nine other demonstrators, I spent hours in a cell designed for four people. He said to The Associated Press, “I slept on the floor.
Cardoso was let go without being charged after denying any involvement.
Cardoso claimed that the possibility of violence breeding violence is worse.
“Violence will increase if the government doesn’t pay attention to us. The young man stated, “Our worst worry is that someone will pass away while protesting.
Footage of police abuse shared on social media sometimes misses the presence of anarchists or ultra-leftists dressed in black who attacked police personnel and damaged property while infiltrating protest marches.
At a particularly violent protest in March, Darmanin declared, “There are troublemakers, frequently radical left, who want to overthrow the institutions, overthrow the state, and kill cops.
These provocateurs’ numbers have increased thanks to opportunists and a few left-leaning pupils. The invaders operate in discrete, highly mobile units known as “black blocs,” which appear and vanish.
Black blocs are not a recent phenomenon but threaten law enforcement. One dramatic video on social media shows a cop falling to the ground after being struck by a pavement stone. Coworkers pulled him away.
Paris or demonstrations against Macron’s retirement plan are not the only places where violence by and against police occurs.
Recently, gendarmes and protesters opposed an artificial water basin engaged in combat in rural France. Two gendarmes and two demonstrators each received significant medical attention and were hospitalized.
The use of force “must be necessary, strictly proportionate, and graded,” according to French police regulations.
In a televised interview, Paris Police Chief Laurent Nunez stated, “Of course, the police response is proportionate.” According to him, police only become involved when black blocs start to act.
He insisted on the police’s function as peacekeepers, saying, “Demonstrations wouldn’t happen without police.”
Nonetheless, some demonstrators have been caught in police methods such as encirclement, where police surround a march to apprehend troublemakers. Yet, demonstrators encased in the police bubble cannot escape the smell of tear gas.
The most recent conflicts, according to Roche, demonstrate that France has “an accumulation of (police) difficulties that no other European country has.”
He used the 2018–2019 Yellow Vest rallies for social and economic justice as an example when a harsh police response resulted in the deaths of two protesters and the loss of several protestors’ eyes.
Then there was the incident with the gassing of British soccer supporters at the Stade de France during the Champions League Cup final the previous year.
Jean-Claude Samouiller, the country director for Amnesty International in France, suggested last week at a news conference that France should enhance its policing approach and referred to “a doctrine of de-escalation and discussion” that is followed in Germany, Belgium, and Sweden.
Samouiller claimed that France’s two recent protest-related deaths placed it in the “bad student” category at the bottom of the class compared to other European nations.