France drops case over ‘racist’ police violence

Black community organisations in France slammed the decision by prosecutors on Thursday to drop charges against a police officer caught on video beating a black woman with a baton, and spraying tear gas in her face during an arrest in central France.

France drops case over 'racist' police violence
Photo: Nasser Tkt/Youtube

French prosecutors said on Thursday they would not pursue a case against a police officer who sparked outrage when he was caught on video beating a black woman with a baton.

The incident, which also saw the officer spray tear gas in the woman's face, was filmed in mid-August in a suburb of the central city of Tours (see video below).

France's Representative Council of Black Associations, or CRAN, denounced the decision.

"The evidence caught on film is irrefutable and this decision stigmatizes France's black population," it said.

But a police union official, David Debono, said the decision was a "relief" for the officers involved. 

"The media impact of this has been difficult and complicated for them to live through," he said. 

The IGPN police internal affairs branch investigated after the video was posted, but Tours prosecutors said on Thursday that the probe found that the two officers "did not commit any infraction" during the incident.

The eight-minute video, called "Shame on the French police", was viewed more than two million times after being posted on YouTube. It shows two police officers trying to subdue a woman who was among the passengers of a car that was stopped while being driven erratically.

During the altercation, one of the officers strikes the woman several times with a truncheon and later sprays tear gas directly into her face.

According to local daily La Nouvelle Republique, the two officers had stopped a car driving erratically on the street early on Sunday morning, and found the driver highly intoxicated.

The latter became uncooperative and unruly when asked to submit to the alcohol test, and a female passenger intervened, allegedly biting one of the two officers, according to a representative of the Unité SGP police officers union, who spoke to France Bleu radio at the time.

The video begins with one officer attempting to subdue the driver and keep him on the ground, while the second officer grapples with one of the female passengers, striking her freely with his baton, including once, with force, on the face.

A few moments later, the same officer goes to his vehicle to retrieve tear gas, according to French daily Le Parisien, which he sprays in the face of the woman, before also spraying a second woman directly in the face.  

For his part, Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned: "There is no place in the police for violence, or views that have no accordance with the ideals of a republican police force."

"The police should be beyond reproach, and the vast majority of police officers do a difficult and remarkable job," Valls was quoted as saying by French daily Libération.

There was an overwhelmingly angry reaction to the video from observers in France, with most condemning the actions of the police officers shown in the video.

Journalist Jean-Yves Viollier took to Twitter to express his outrage. "The policemen from Joué-les-Tours, gassing and beating a woman, should be suspended. They are a disgrace to French police."

Les policiers de Joué-les-Tours, matraquant et gazant une femme, doivent être suspendus. Ils sont la honte de la police française.

— VIOLLIER Jean-Yves (@JYViollier) August 20, 2013

The following is the original eight-minute video, entitled "Honte à la police francaise" (Shame on French police), by uploader Nasser Tkt.

It contains moments of violence that some readers might find upsetting.

Police claims that the women bit the officer in question, however, were later undermined when a second video of the incident appeared online courtesy of French investigative website Mediapart (see below). 

The footage shows the driver, who police said was drunk and had refused to take an breathalyser test, already on the ground as officers tried to handcuff him.

All of a sudden we can hear one of the police officers shout “Argh! He’s bit me!” suggesting it was in fact the driver who bit the officer and not the woman who was later bludgeoned as the police officer had initially claimed.

Here is that second video.

Interpellation à Joué-les-Tours, le 18 août 2013 par Mediapart

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