French police hold demonstrations over arrest of officer involved in fatal shooting

French police have held demonstrations in towns and cities across France, denouncing the arrest of an officer who was involved in a fatal shooting in Paris on the night of the presidential election.

French police hold demonstrations over arrest of officer involved in fatal shooting
Members of Police unions demonstrate in Paris. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Two people died and a third was injured after a police officer opened fire on a car on the Pont-Neuf in central Paris on the night of the French election.

An investigating magistrate has charged the officer with murder over the shooting, a decision that lead police unions to stage protests in multiple French towns on Monday.

The police unions Alliance, Synergie and Unsa-Police have called the decision “inadmissable” and on Monday staged protests in several towns, the largest in Paris on Place Saint-Michel, a few hundred metres from the Pont-Neuf.

Several hundred officers turned out to the Paris protest, which was later joined by a counter-protest against police violence.

The 24-year-old officer fired his assault rifle at the car after it failed to stop for a police check on the picturesque Pont Neuf bridge, later claiming that he acted in self-defence.

Two of the occupants of the car – including the driver – died at the scene, while a third person was injured.

The officer was immediately taken in for questioning by the police’s internal investigations agency, and prosecutors determined it was more likely that the officer had responded with excessive force.

Counter-demonstrators hold a placard reading “L435-1, weapon of mass destruction” on the sidelines of a demonstration called by French Police unions in Paris against the indictment for “voluntary manslaughter” of a French police officer. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Around a dozen rounds were fired, with “five or six shots hitting the occupants,” according to a police report of the incident seen by AFP.

It is not unheard of for police to stage protests or marches in France – in summer 2020 dozens of officers symbolically laid down their handcuffs in protest at a decision by the then-interior minister to suspend any officer accused of misconduct and to ban the controversial ‘chokehold’ – the government later backed down.

There were further protests later in the year from police unions over Emmanuel Macron’s use of the phrase “police violence” in an interview.

READ ALSO How did France’s relationship with its own police get so bad?

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French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.