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 pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.