WORKERS groups in France are considering legal action, after a shocking video emerged of black women and children being brutally dispersed by police in La Corneuve, Paris, as they protested against evictions.
Police could be seen going into a group of about 60 people staging a sit-down protest and roughly manhandling them, including a pregnant woman, and dragging some of them away.
A pregnant woman, who is lying immobile on the ground, is grabbed by the arms by two officers while another officer has one of her legs.
The footage also showed police dragging a woman along the ground with a baby strapped to her back.
Angry workers in France described the video as a classic example of the racism of the French state.
‘These are scary scenes,’ said Sokouana Gary, founder of SOW, an association that develops humanitarian projects with young people from La Courneuve.
‘Faced with his failure in the suburbs, it is tempting for Nicolas Sarkozy and his government to abandon working-class neighbourhoods or to try and rein them in through showy and highly publicised security operations,’ the local Socialist Party councillor, Stéphane Troussel, said.
Meanwhile, opposition parties and anti-racist groups warned that the Sarkozy government was planning more right-wing laws to remove the citizenship of ‘any person of foreign origin who voluntarily threatens the life of a police officer’ or other public authority figures.
Police had moved in to break up a makeshift camp in La Courneuve, a poor Paris suburb, set up after the protesting families had been evicted from a block of flats which are facing demolition.
The video was shot on July 21 by an observer from the association Droit au Logement (Right to Housing) and then posted on the internet by French news site Mediapart and then broadcast by US news channel CNN last week.
The footage shows the protesters, mainly women of African descent, trying to hold on to each other as police drag them away.
The Right to Housing association said it planned to file a complaint of ‘police brutality’, but the local police headquarters in Seine-Saint-Denis defended the actions of its force.
‘State services confirm that this operation was carried out in relatively good conditions,’ the statement read, whilst adding that they were met by some ‘physical resistance’.
But Jean-Baptiste Eyraud of Right to a Roof said: ‘When I saw those pictures I must say I was shocked. I didn’t think such a level of brutality was possible.
‘To launch against babies and pregnant women . . . it’s violent.’
Eyraud was present on the day but was arrested before the police intervention.
He added: ‘We think there should be an investigation to understand how this happened.
‘The explanations by the local authorities are not satisfying when they say “they were warned and they didn’t leave’’, “the mother lied down on her baby’’, that’s absurd, the baby fell off his mother’s back because she was dragged on the floor and that’s it.
‘So we need sanctions to be taken. Otherwise we can suppose that the police will continue brutal interventions.
‘We are very worried because we feel a climate of repression settling, a brutal and violent one, which will result in those images we see now but maybe others too.’