Big French demonstrations against police brutality

This 3 June 2020 video says about itself:

George Floyd’s death reignites protests in Paris over black Frenchman’s 2016 death in police custody

As the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death spread nationwide in the US, demonstrations have erupted in Paris over Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black Frenchman who died in police custody four years ago. About 20,000 people showed up for the protest, and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Demonstrations took place across France, with thousands of people attending rallies in Lille, Marseille, and Lyon.

Translated from Frank Renout, Dutch NOS radio correspondent in France, today:

Police brutality in France exposes lack of confidence

Again, there are mass demonstrations against police brutality in France. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis is lamented, but also seen as an ‘opportunity’: to draw attention to French abuses. Police officers are often suspects in France.

“They kill us, injure us, attack us and insult us. We have to protest against that. It has taken way too long,” said a young female black protester in Paris.

The black community in France has been complaining about the actions of the police for years. Scientists confirm that feeling. “There is structural discrimination,” said sociologist Laurent Mucchielli on French TV.

People with a black or North African appearance are stopped by the police in Paris 7 to 8 times as often as people with white skin, research a number of years ago has shown.

Yellow vests

But another group is also present at the demonstrations in France: the Yellow Vests. They took to the streets en masse last year. Those demonstrations often resulted in hard clashes with the on-call police. Agents deploy rubber bullets and grenades, which critics say are too heavy weapons to use in demonstrations. In a year, nearly 2500 demonstrating Yellow Vests were injured, government figures show.

But officers are hardly, if at all, called to account for the use of excessive force, let alone punished. The French police are therefore criticized from various angles. This puts the government of President Macron in a difficult position.

It can hardly ignore the criticism that is widely felt and shared. Public opinion is partly formed by those scientific studies of discrimination and by the photos of mutilated Yellow Vests.

Hushing words

At the same time, the government desperately needs those same police officers

Macron and his ministers cannot just go against their own law enforcement officers.

In recent days, therefore, there were a lot of soothing words. “About 85 percent of the French have a positive or very positive view of the police,” said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner this week.

He based himself on a large-scale national study. But the minister did not say that it was not a representative sample. People could register themselves to answer questions. “The answers varied greatly by region,” admitted research leader Stéphane Daubignard. Opinions about the police in the upscale neighbourhoods of Paris may be very different from those in problem neighbourhoods around the capital.

In addition, the study was not conducted recently but “in the course of 2019”. … George Floyd was still alive. Daubignard: “Public opinion may have changed since we conducted that survey.”

Confidence is hard to find

The French Christian aid organization Acat published a lengthy investigation into the working methods of the police this year. Many problems were exposed in this, but many solutions were also proposed.

In essence, the solution, according to Acat, is simple: “Trust must be restored between the French population and law enforcement officers.” But especially with the black community, which feels systematically discriminated against, and with demonstrators like the Yellow Vests, who do not feel physically safe, trust is still a long way off.

8 thoughts on “Big French demonstrations against police brutality

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