French police hold small but bold protest near Eiffel Tower

PARIS (AP) – It was a small protest, but bold. About 50 police officers gathered with their vehicles Friday at a spot overlooking the Eiffel Tower and blared their sirens to protest President Emmanuel Macron saying it is “unbearable” that people of color are more likely to be stopped by law enforcement than white people.

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Two unions threatened to stop carrying out identity checks after Macron’s remarks a week ago in an interview with the online outlet Brut, meant to capture the youth audience.

“We just want to say to the president and politicians that we are neither racist nor violent,” one officer said, adding that they are just police officers keeping the peace. He said unions were not part of the protest, “which risks growing if they don’t listen to us.”

Police officers in France have no right to strike or protest so the small but noisy gathering was symbolically significant.

In an interview a week ago with Brut, Macron rejected the term “police brutality,” but denounced violence perpetrated both by and against police. Officers who are violent “must be punished,” he said.

He announced that an internet platform would be set up in January so “people can say where they are discriminated against and in what way.” It is not meant to focus only on police actions, he said..

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Police misconduct received new attention in France after footage posted on social media last month showed police officers beating up a Black man, triggering a nationwide outcry. Four officers were placed under investigation and two of them jailed.

An article in new security legislation that would make it illegal to publish images of officers with intent to cause them harm drew sharp criticism over fear it could hurt press freedoms and make it more difficult for citizens to decry police brutality. The measure is being rewritten.

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