France backtracks from ban on chokeholds by police

PARIS (AFP) – The French government has suspended a ban on chokeholds by the police, a technique that has been widely denounced by Black Lives Matter activists at rallies against racism.

The ban was announced last week after demonstrations spurred by the death of George Floyd in the United States (US), a black man who pleaded “I can’t breathe” as an officer kneeled on his neck.

But the move sparked furious protests from police unions, who said the long-used technique was essential for ensuring officers’ safety, and accused the government of failing to appreciate the perils of their work.

“While awaiting a clarification of the new framework and when circumstances require it, the technique known as a chokehold will continue to be used with restraint and discernment,” national Police Chief Frederic Veaux said in a letter to staff on Monday, seen by AFP.

In particular, the technique can be used when a person resists arrest or threatens an officer or other people.

Veaux said a commission would be set up today to begin working on possible “substitution techniques”, with recommendations due by September 1.

File photo of Director General of the French National Police Frederic Veaux (R). PHOTO: AFP