Video of French policeman ‘throwing rock’ at May Day protesters prompts investigation
July 10, 2020
French prosecutors launched a criminal investigation on Friday after a policeman was filmed apparently throwing a rock towards protesters during May Day clashes in Paris.
Footage posted online by a local agency, Line Press, shows a CRS riot officer from behind as he hurls the rock, but it does not show where it landed.
An internal police investigation is also being carried out “to identify the officer and determine the circumstances in which the projectile was thrown,” a police spokesman said.
Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, said: “If someone is at fault, there will be a punishment.”
The incident took place near the Paris hospital where Princess Diana died, which was invaded by dozens of protesters. Mr Castaner described the invasion as “an attack”.
The protesters claimed they were simply fleeing police when they broke through a gate into the grounds of the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital and attempted to enter an intensive care unit.
Mobile phone footage filmed by a member of the hospital’s staff lent credibility to the protesters’ account.
It shows them ascending an external stairway to the unit and demanding entry, but not trying to force their way in after being told patients were inside.
Opposition leaders condemned Mr Castaner for exaggerating the incident. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of a far-Left party, accused him of lying.
On Friday, Mr Castaner acknowledged that he should not have used the term “attack” and said “violent intrusion” was more appropriate.
He dismissed opposition leaders’ demands for his resignation over the controversy. “Entering a hospital by force is inadmissible,” he said.
“This incident should open our eyes to the need to put an end to this climate of violence.” Jean-Marc Bailleul, a police union spokesman, defended the minister.
“Glass doors were broken and computers were stolen,” he said.
A photograph showing “yellow vest” protesters standing on the roof of the hospital entrance calmly holding a flag raised questions about their claim that they were trying to avoid being charged or tear-gassed by police.
Nearly 300 people were arrested during the protests, many for hurling rocks or bottles at police.