Videos of French high-school pupils forced to kneel by police cause uproar

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Videos of French high-school pupils forced to kneel by police cause uproar

Images and videos of scores of French high-school pupils kneeling in front of police with their hands either bound or behind their heads has caused shock and anger in France and promises to raise tensions even higher ahead of Saturday's latest "yellow vest" protest.


The images were taken on Thursday afternoon at Mantes-la-Jolie, a small town to the north-west of Paris after a protest by high-school students.

They show youngsters kneeling in rows or facing a wall as police in riot gear look on. Some have their hands tied behind their backs while others are forced to keep their hands on their heads.

In one of the videos a voice, believed to be a police officer, can be heard saying: "Now there's a class that's behaving well".

In all some 150 high-school pupils were arrested with the youngest being 12.

The arrests followed a protest by high-school students in the town that descended into violence. High school pupils have been protesting across France in recent days demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements. Many demos have descended into violence.

The local authority chief in the department of Yvelines, Jean-Jacques Brot, told Le Parisien newspaper: "Instructions were given to proceed to make arrests. I decided to proceed to show the determination of the state," adding that there had been unacceptable violence.

"These images make a big impression but no young people were hurt or mistreated, we did not register any complaints," said Brot.

The town of Mantes-la-Jolie had seen two days of clashes between pupils, local youths and police. Cars were burned and youths hurled rocks at police who responded with tear gas.


Police sources told Le Parisien some of the youngsters arrested on Thursday were carrying bars, baseball bats and canisters of pepper spray. 

The local prosecutor Vincent Lesclous told Le Monde newspaper: "The images of these collective arrests are striking, that's for sure but in the face of the violence of these last days, we had to opt for a solution to preserve order."

Nevertheless the images shocked France's political class.

"Shocking, unacceptable. This is not the Republic. French youth humiliated. But what does power seek if not anger in return? ", wrote former Socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon. 

Former Green Minister Cecile Duflot said: "We need to say calmly but firmly: what happened with the students of Mantes-la-Jolie - these scenes of which there are many photos and videos - is simply intolerable."


There was similar reaction on the web with the hashtag #ManteslaJolie top of trending in France on Friday morning as members of the public vented their anger towards police.

The images only promise to add to the tensions in France with high-school students set to stage more protests on Friday ahead of the latest 'yellow vest' protest in Paris on Saturday, where authorities fear significant violence. 


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Anonymous 2018/12/12 00:10
Instead of getting out there to speak to the youths, to address their needs and demands, Jean-Jacques Brot, told Le Parisien newspaper: "Instructions were given to proceed to make arrests. I decided to proceed to show the determination of the state," Very brave of him. His political class has caused French youth to feel unwanted and rejected and turns the violence of the state on them when they riot. Now the "determination of the state" will be tested to breaking point. Jean-Jacques Brot et al will be forced to meet the youth, workers and the Yellow Vest movement and resolve the issues or they will be out of office quicker than they can imagine.
Anonymous 2018/12/08 07:43
An excellent comment from Paul Roberts. I don't believe it has caused "uproar" throughout France, only in the minds of "journalists" looking for a headline.
Anonymous 2018/12/07 20:48
Paul Roberts: Well said.
Anonymous 2018/12/07 13:14
Hmmmm; touchy and controversial topic.<br />I lived through and amidst the UK miners strike of 1984. I have no love, or respect, for acts of police brutality or abuse.<br />However, what is happening in this instance (the school protest) is not abuse or brutality - it's the brief and essential act of re-establishing law and order.<br />IF it is/were factual that some students were armed with primitive, but dangerous, weapons, the police have every reason to round them, all of them, up and establish safety for all parties.<br />No one either carries, or brandishes, a weapon unless they are prepared to use it. The police, under such circumstances, stand between order and anarchy which is an unenviable position.<br />The police action appears harsh but imagine the headlines, and consequence, of students loosing their self control and going on a violent rampage.<br />Macron needs to establish personal control, of the wider issue, by the simple expedient of being seen, expressing regret for his (presumably unintentional) arrogance, and listening to the French people - not all of whom are taking to the streets and terrifying the greater public.<br />I don't believe Macron to be either arrogant or evil, on the contrary, but we humans - all of us - should never, EVER, underestimate our capacity for stupidity and its' unintended consequences.

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