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22.11.2019 Europe

First policeman goes on trial for brutality during Yellow Vest protests

By RFI
REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
NOV 22, 2019 EUROPE

The Paris prosecutor has recommended a 3-month suspended sentence for a policeman for hurling a paving stone at protesters during a Yellow Vest rally. The CRS officer is the first member of the security forces to face trial after numerous allegations of police brutality during the past year of protests.

"I do not want to use him as an example", the Paris prosecutor said Thursday when calling for the 3-month sentence, insisting "the police force was not on trial".

The SGP police union has accused the judiciary of trying to make a "scapegoat" of the 44-year-old officer and argued that he had acted in self-defence.

The accused was caught on camera throwing a stone during May Day protests.

His lawyer Laurent Boguet told the court that 1 May was a "very violent day" and that police had come under attack from stone-throwing protesters.

Among those hit was the accused's commanding officer, who was struck in the face by a paving stone and badly injured.

The officer also risks a fine of 45,000 euros if convicted of "deliberate violence by a person in a position of public authority".

Police under scrutiny
The policing methods for protests have been under the spotlight over the past year after several Yellow Vests were left blinded and maimed by police stun grenades. Around two dozen people have lost an eye.

Around 2,500 demonstrators and 1,800 security force members have been injured since the protests began, according to an official count.

Thursday's court hearing is the first arising from 212 cases of alleged police brutality being investigated by the IGPN police oversight body.

Another officer is set to stand trial in the coming weeks for slapping a protester in the face during the same 1 May protest in Paris, a scene also caught on video.

More unrest to come
Thursday's case comes just days after the first anniversary of the anti-government rallies, which were again marked by rioting and vandalism last Saturday.

The protests erupted on 17 November 2019 over a planned fuel tax hike, which quickly snowballed into a general revolt against President Macron's policies.

Critics accused the former investment banker of ignoring the daily struggles of the working poor in rural and small-town France.

Although the Saturday protests have fizzled out, Macron is facing a major strike called by unions for 5 December against planned pension reforms, which could be bolstered by Yellow Vest support.

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