First it was a video of a former professional boxer raining punches on riot police in Paris that shocked France, now it's a clip of a high-ranking French police officer punching several people during a “yellow vest” protest on the same day.
The commander of a unit of 400 police Didier Andrieux, who has just been nominated for the country's top Legion d'honneur award, was filmed throwing punches at protesters in the southern city of Toulon on Saturday.
The clip, which was posted on Twitter and has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, shows Andrieux punch a man several times who was being held against a wall by other police officers.
It takes the intervention of another officer before he relents.
In other incidents he is seen lashing out at a protester who is held over a car bonnet as well as violently pushing away other protesters who try to intervene (see video below).
— Stéphane Larue (@larueofficiel) January 5, 2019
After the images went viral over the weekend the prosecutor of the department of the Var announced that he was asking France's “police of the police ” – the Inspection Generale de la Police Nationale (IGPN) to investigate the officer and “shed light on the suspicion of police violence”.
The police officer gave an interview to local newspaper Nice Matin on Sunday in which he explained his actions.
He said he first punched the man against the wall to make him drop the shard of a bottle that he was holding. “I then gave him two more blows because I didn't know if he had dropped the shard,” said Andrieux.
The officer described the man he punched as a serial offender who “had absolutely nothing to do with the 'yellow vest' protests”.
The local prosecutor told the media the man had a criminal past dating back ten years.
The prosecutor explained that the punches thrown at the protesters on the car bonnet need to be put in context and said the protester was resisting arrest.
It's also emerged Andrieux has been in hot water before over a violent altercation with another police officer.
The video will only heighten tensions between protesters and police which have been fraught since the movement began back in November.
Numerous videos of protesters attacking police have emerged, including the Saturday's clip of the former boxer fighting officers with his fists, as well as several incidents in which the police have been accused of heavy-handedness and brutality.
The IGPN are investigating dozens of incidents after complaints were made against police.