|photo courtesy of Newsblaze.com|
(story reported by Nabila Ramdani, Guardian U.K. columnist)
Even by the standards of French "community" policing, it is a desperately harrowing video. Filmed by an amateur cameraman, it shows riot police in the notorious Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris breaking up a demonstration by evicted mothers, some of them pregnant. Displaying the kind of respect and sensitivity normally reserved for prone drunks, the officers poke, manhandle and then drag the protestors along the road, along with their crying young children and babies.
The film was shot in the early morning on 21 July in a particularly volatile town called La Courneuve, outside a block of flats called Balzac. The decaying 15-storey building is set to be demolished, leaving dozens of squatters homeless. Many are young women originally from the Ivory Coast, and it was these who were mainly filmed as they were targeted while taking part in a sit-down protest. At least one pregnant woman faints, while a little boy is in hysterics as he is dragged along the ground under his mother. The armed, shaven-headed police meanwhile wear body armour and clearly display the badge of the CRS – the infamous Compagnie Républicaine de Sécurité, which made its name violently suppressing enemies of the state during the student and trade union riots of May 1968. Accompanied by a soundtrack of shrieks, tears and chants of "Leave us alone!", the images in La Courneuve have provoked calls for an enquiry into police brutality, and punishment for all those involved.
Despite the focus on France's legendary forces of law and order, however, there is no doubt that the man currently under greatest suspicion for inciting racial hatred and intimidation is President Nicolas Sarkozy himself. This is the politician, remember, who once described troublemakers from places like La Courneuve as "scum" who should be "washed away with a power hose". As interior minister, he revelled in his nickname of "Le Top Cop", sending heavily armed officers en masse towards the slightest sign of any kind of disturbance, no matter how trivial.(click here to read Nabila Ramdani's entire column in the Guardian U.K.)