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Should the French police be banned from using tear gas grenades during demos?

The use of tear gas grenades by French police has become increasingly controversial after several horrific injuries on demonstrations. Now media reports claim that the manufacturers themselves have advised French police against using them at protests.

Should the French police be banned from using tear gas grenades during demos?
France is the only European country allowing the police to use the tear gas grenades on protests. Photo: AFP

Tear gas is frequently used by French police to disperse crowds when protests turn violent.

Photos from protests in France often show police officers carrying long, black weapons, with thick, egg-sized holes that fire off the canisters that fog the streets thick with thick, grey smoke.

The tear gas itself is not dangerous, although deeply unpleasant if you breathe it in, but there have been many cases of the grenades themselves causing injuries when they explode, both to people hit by fragments and people who try to throw or kick them back towards police.

This weekend, the investigative French newspaper Mediapart published a letter from the manufacturer of the grenades used in France, warning about the safety risks of its own product. 

Manufacturer Alsetex is reported to have written to the French Interior Ministry in January 2018 to warn about the deficiencies of the GLI-F4 grenade.

Referring to an incident dating back to 2014, when an employee was killed in the process of manufacturing the grenade, Alsetex wrote that at this stage it was “impossible to resume the production process” of the grenade and that a “costly” work security study was needed. 

The letter also stated that the grenade had already caused “several serious accidental injuries” and its use would “probably” soon be prohibited.

A protester kicks away a tear gas grenade in Nantes. Photo: AFP

How dangerous are the grenades?

French riot police have a variety of weapons in their armoury for use if protests get violent.

There has already been much controversy over the LBD rubber bullets used in violent protest situations, which have lead to several people losing an eye, but the tear gas canisters are generally less feared by those attending the protests.

However several ‘yellow vest’ protesters have been severely injured by the GLI-F4 grenade. An 80-year-old woman died in Marseille last December after a police tear gas grenade hit her as she closed her shutters during a demonstration.

At least five people have had their hands blown off after picking one up from the ground. 

This is one of the main problems revealed in Alsetex's letter to the French Interior Ministry, the grenade's “ageing deficiency” had “not been resolved.”

This means that while the grenade might explode on contact with the ground as it is supposed to, it could also remain intact – until someone touches it or picks it up.


People in Paris marched against police violence in June, carrying portraits of people who were injured during the 'yellow vest' protests. Photo: AFP

France alone in Europe

France authorised the use of the GLI-F4 grenade in 2011. The grenade was created to replace the OF1 grenade, which was banned after it killed a 21-year-old man during a protest in 2014.

France is the only country in Europe that allows explosive items such as the grenade during protests.

Human Rights Watch released a report in December 2018 critisising the French police for their “disproportionate” use of force against protesters, stressing that both journalists and students were among the victims.

What about future policing?

Mediapart’s revelations come as France prepares for another big protest day on December 17th, when hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in another nation-wide protest against the government’s planned pension reform. 

While last week’s union-led protest turned out to be relatively calm compared to the ‘yellow vest’ protests the week before, between 7,000 and 8,000 police officers had been deployed in case things turned violent.

Should ‘black bloc’ rioters infiltrate the protest on Tuesday like they did during the one-year-anniversary of the ‘yellow vest’ movement, the police might fire tear gas canisters to disperse protesters. In that case, there is no reason as to why the GLI-F4 grenade would not be among the tear gas canisters fired off.

According to the police watchdog Direction générale de la police nationale (DGPN), 583 GLI-F4 grenades have been used since January 2018. 

Member comments

  1. What are the police allowed to do? Are protesters allowed to destroy and create blockades? It seems as if anarchy is being allowed. Don’t bother to call the police if you ever need one because there either won’t be any police due to not being able to do their job or the ones who show up won’t be able to do anything because the government won’t allow it. What a shame.

  2. “deeply unpleasant if you breathe it in”. LOL, obviously written by someone who has never been tear gassed.

    No, France must not stop using tear gas: France has the right to use tear gas, police brutality, warrantless searches and seizures, to ban protests, to arrest thousands and imprison hundreds more (if not thousands already/yet) AND also the right to criticise other nations when they do the same thing BECAUSE.

    Women, children & old people have no right to protest, thus they should keep getting tear gas.

    I’m glad the Local is finally bringing up this issue so we can smack down those old protesting ladies with more impunity.

  3. I don’t see old ladies in the picture. Police should be able to stop the burning of cars and breaking of windows. Children, (again I didn’t see any), shouldn’t be protesting or at a protest.

  4. Yes they should be stopped from using it but use live rounds instead, then send the cost of the bullets to the deceased family.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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