French Police Protest 'Reforms' to Enforcement Tactics Amid Accusations of Racism

French police are protesting against a new ban on chokeholds and limits to what they can do during arrests, part of government efforts to stem police brutality and racism in the wake of global protests over George Floyd’s death in the US.

Police officers rallied on the French capital's famed Champs-Elysées avenue on Friday, parking dozens of vehicles at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in protest against new restrictions on restraint holds they can use.

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 protest came as police unions were due to hold talks on Friday with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to discuss changes to police tactics, after Castaner announced earlier this week that police would no longer be taught to seize suspects by the neck or push on their necks.

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.

Officers from the union Unité SGP Police FO laid their handcuffs on the ground outside police stations around France on Thursday night in a symbolic protest.

“They want to prevent us from working,” Unité SGP Police FO representative Yves Lefebvre said on BFM television. “Mr. Castaner appears to have heard us, but not heard us enough.”

‘Zero tolerance’ of police racism

France has seen several protests sparked by Floyd’s death, and another is planned Saturday.

Earlier this week, Jacques Toubon, France's human rights ombudsman, raised the alarm over a "crisis of public confidence in the security forces", urging a reversal of what he described as a "warring mentality" in law enforcement.

On Monday the Elysée presidential palace said President Emmanuel Macron had urged cabinet ministers to come up with proposals to improve policing practices and address accusations of racial prejudice.

Announcing the chokehold ban, Castaner pledged “zero tolerance” of racism in the police, adding that the use of body cameras would be beefed up.

"Racism has no place in our society and even less in our Republican police. I will not let the hateful actions of some [officers] stigmatise the police as a whole,” Castaner told reporters. He added: “I refuse to say that the [police] institution is racist, but yes some police officers are racist.”

Though Castaner spoke at length in support of the police, his acknowledgement of racist incidents marked a rare concession from a minister who had so far strenuously denied police malpractice.

It came days after media outlets published the contents of a private Facebook group on which French officers repeatedly used racist and sexist terms and mocked victims of police brutality.

You can read this article as it originally appears at France 24 here.

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(PHOTO: THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

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This article originally appeared at France 24.