Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Protesting new restrictions on the use of force, police across France threw away their handcuffs in public demonstrations on Thursday and Friday.
In the Paris suburb of Bobigny, officers stood in line to throw down their cuffs one at a time, the BBC reported. Similar demonstrations were held in Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and other cities. In Rennes, police locked their cuffs to the fence outside the prefecture. On Friday a convoy of squad cars drove down the Champs-Élysées sounding their horns.
The actions came after Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced on Monday a ban on chokeholds and neck restraints, after a weekend of anti-police protests where participants invoked George Floyd and Adama Traore, a Mali-French 24-year-old who was killed in police custody in 2016.
Traore's parents were told he died of a heart attack and had alcohol and cannabis in his system, but an official autopsy determined he had no drugs in his system and the cause of death was asphyxiation.
A firefighter on the scene testified that Traore was placed face-down in handcuffs and told police that he could not breathe, but that officers believed he was faking. Advocates say Traoré's last words were "I can't breathe."
In January, Cédric Chouviat, a 42-year-old delivery driver, died after being held on the ground during a police check near the Eiffel Tower. Authorities said they stopped Chouviat because he had been looking at his phone suspiciously while riding his scooter, the Guardian reported.
A lawyer for Chouviat's family said the father of four was held face down with force for three minutes. In his autopsy coroners found signs of asphyxiation and a fractured larynx. Chouviat's attorney said his death was the result of a "culture of impunity and denial that encourages police and absolves them of responsibility."
On Monday, Castaner said the chokehold will no longer be taught in police and gendarmerie schools."It is a method that has its dangers," he said, according to the BBC. But police union representative Xavier Leveau told AFP that head and neck restraint was a vital part of the handcuffing process.
"We're not going to hold a man down for eight minutes. We're going to hold him down just for the handcuffing," Leveau said. "We don't have a substitute technique. So how do we do it today?"
Castaner continues to negotiate with police unions on the parameters around their use of force. The government is also investigating allegations of racism in law enforcement, based on comments made in police-only Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
Police union leader Jean-Paul Megret had harsh words for Castaner."He doesn't even know what he's talking about," he said. "Sometimes you can't just ask people to follow you to be arrested. Every day, you're dealing with people who are completely insane."
Another Black Lives Matter protest is scheduled for Saturday in Paris.