France

Homeless campagners want police violence video inquiry

Mediapart

Homeless campaigners have demanded an investigation following the violent expulsion of immigrants from a squat on the outskirts of Paris. Speaking to RFI, Droit Au Logement (DAL) spokesperson, Jean-Baptiste Ayrault, claimed the expulsion in the La Courneuve area of St Denis marks an “escalation in police brutality.”

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Footage of French police using apparently excessive force while breaking the squat has prompted international outrage.

Filmed on 21 July by a member DAL, the video shows officers roughly handling women and children as they break up a group of 150 squatters who were evicted from a tower block in La Courneuve, north-east of Paris.

At one point, a woman is shown being pulled by her legs across the ground, her baby – which she had been carrying on her back – dragged along the concrete after her.

The local Seine-Saint-Denis police rejected charges of brutality and said the eviction in was carried out "in relatively good conditions".

The video, which has received over 500,000 hits on the website Daily Motion and has been picked up international media, attracted strong condemnation by viewers and activists.

Jean-Baptiste Ayrault, spokesman for the DAL, demanded an investigation.

"We have seen in increase in the levels of brutality used by French police," Ayroult told RFI. “The CRS [riot police] were called in too quickly, which meant that babies and pregnant women were mistreated. We don’t usually see this in evictions.”

Tensions run high between French police and locals in deprived districts with high population of immigrant origin.

The video has appeared during a time of renewed national debate on immigration. Struggling in the opinion polls, Sarkozy has recently made a series of head-line grabbing security announcements, including toughening his rhetoric on immigration.

Critics accuse Sarkozy of pursuing policies that target the vulnerable while giving free reign to the police.

In Grenoble on Friday, following recent violent clashes between police and protesters, Sarkozy explicitly linked immigration and crime.

 "We are suffering the consequences of 50 years of insufficiently regulated immigration which has led to a failure of integration," he said. "Nationality should be stripped from anyone of foreign origin who deliberately endangers the life of a police officer, a soldier or a gendarme or anyone else holding public authority."

Sarkozy also promised to review the welfare payments made to non-documented immigrants in France and to raise minimum sentences for aggravated offences.

His speech came amid renewed accusations that Sarkozy has swerved to the right to distract from his political woes.
 

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