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French police protest against chokehold ban

Police officers attend the demonstration against French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner's reforms June 12, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Police staged protests in cities across France against a ban on chokehold restraint techniques imposed by the government in response to public anger over the death of George Floyd and alleged police brutality in France.

In Paris on Friday, police unions parked dozens of vehicles at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe before processing down the Champs Elysees boulevard. One van carried a poster reading “No police, no peace”. Another carried graphic images of injuries sustained by police officers attacked in the line of duty, with the words: “Who is massacring who?”.

The protests followed a meeting between police unions and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner meant to try and allay the simmering police anger.

The unions told the minister the chokehold saved lives and was a technique that officers needed at their disposal until a suitable alternative was found, Fabien Vanhemelryck of the National Police Alliance said after the meeting.

“The second thing we told him was to stop buying social peace … where we appease a certain part of the population at the expense of the police,” Vanhemelryck told reporters. “The police are not responsible for all the evils of society.”

In the Paris suburb of Bobigny late on Thursday evening, officers lined up outside the police station and threw their handcuffs to the ground. In Lyon, police parked their cars around the central Place Bellecour, blue lights flashing.

Accusations of brutality and racism against French police remain largely unaddressed, rights groups say.

A wave of anger has swept around the world after the death of Floyd, an African-American who died after a white officer knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes.

Meanwhile the police department said it had called for shops and businesses in districts from Republique to Opera to close on Saturday due to risks of public disorder at a demonstration.

The police department said on Friday that shops should board up their windows, and that it had asked the local authority to remove any objects that could be used as projectiles.

Demonstrators protesting over the death of Adama Traore who died in a 2016 police operation, are planning to march from Republique to Opera on Saturday. Some trouble broke out at an earlier June protest.

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