Outrage over videos of French police clashing with women on feminist march

France's equalities minister has demanded an investigation after videos circulated online showing police tear gassing and attacking women on a feminist march.

Outrage over videos of French police clashing with women on feminist march
Women all over France took to the streets on Sunday for international women's day, the day after police used force to disperse a feminist protest in Paris. Photo: AFP

Footage appearing to show of police officers using tear gas and violently detaining women taking part in late-night feminist march in Paris on Saturday, March 7th has caused outrage in France.

In one video, published around 11pm, a group of police officers was seen running towards protesters, hitting them with batons and throwing some of them on the ground.


Other videos showed women crying from tear gas.


The “symbolic nocturnal march” was organised to depart at 8pm in central Paris as a precursor to the big protest planned for the celebration of international women’s day the following day, March 8th.

The incidents occurred as police tried to disperse the protesters after the march was due to finish at 10pm.

Author and filmmaker David Dufresne tweeted at 11pm on Saturday that protesters were being “forced into the Metro” in central Paris.


Activists condemned the police's actions.

Caroline de Haas, of the French feminist collective Nous Toutes, tweeted: “Last night, feminists were beaten by police forces as they were protesting – notably – sexual violence. [President] Emmanuel Macron, [Interior Minister] Christophe Castanter, [gender equality minister] Marlène Schiappa, how could you give these kinds of instructions?”





The following day, French politicians condemned the police for a disproportionate use of force.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was “shocked by the unacceptable and incomprehensible violence” and that she “supported the female and male protesters.”


French gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa also publicly condemned the police officers' actions.

“All women must be able to peacefully protest to make their rights respected!” she tweeted, stating that interior minister Christophe Castaner had asked the Paris police department to file a report about Saturday's incidents.


Publicly condemning police officers is not something the French government does lightly or often, and Schiappa later walked back on her criticism, telling French TV that the reason for the violence had been that the “course of the protest was not respected.”

France has become used to seeing images of clashes between police and protesters since the 'yellow vest' social movement made it a mission to film and upload violent incidents online.

Earlier this year, scenes of police and firefighters fighting on the streets of the capital caught international attention.

READ MORE: How the 'yellow vests' made France have a national conversation about police violence 

Gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa said all women have the right to protest to have their rights heard following the clashes with police on Saturday. Photo: AFP

But the police said their use of force was merited, as the protesters had remained on the streets even after the march was set to end.

In a press statement published on Sunday, March 8th, the Paris police said that groups of protesters had “intentionally disrespected” police orders, resulting in the “police having to use tear gas and push the protesters back.”



Nine people were arrested during the protests, according to the police.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS: French police are not all thugs – they are being placed in an impossible situation

Femen feminist group protesters made a comparison with the coronavirus and the 'virus of patricarchy' in Paris on March 8th. Photo: AFP

The following day, International Women's Day, saw tens of thousands of people in Paris join a demonstration which passed off peacefully, although with some reports of the police firing off tear gas in the afternoon.

However there was violence at an official event in Nantes in the afternoon. Participants at the feminist march told French press that the police had fired off tear gas grenades into the group of protesters, despite children being present.


“My girl nearly got hit in the head by a [tear gas]  grenade,” one woman told France 3.




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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”