French police filmed brutally beating injured HIV-positive man at yellow vests protest
An investigation has been launched after video footage emerged of a French police officer brutally beating an injured HIV-positive man as he lay pinned to the ground at a yellow vests protest.
The incident occurred at an anti-government gilets jaunes (yellow vests) event in Paris on Saturday, January 18, where around 60 people were arrested in violent clashes with police.
Filmed by another protestor, a man with a bloodied face can be seen lying on his back as an officer kneels on him and repeatedly punches him in the face.
The man was later identified as a 20-year-old student named Clément. According to the his lawyer, he was left with several heamatomas as well as an open wound in the skull that required stitches.
Stanislas Gaudon, spokesperson for the police union Alliance, said that the man had been violent and opposed the arrest of another protestor. He further claimed that the man spat blood in the police officer’s face and told him “I have AIDS, you are going to die” – something which Clément has denied happening.
Gaudon explained that the officer’s use of force was purely to stop the individual from spitting blood.
18 janvier 2020, un #GiletJaune, visage en sang, couché sur le dos et déjà menotté, est alors frappé à plusieurs reprises par un membre des FDO de Macron
Lamentable, inadmissible pic.twitter.com/Aau6emelqD
— Rive gauche (@RGauche) January 19, 2020
He said: “I do not know if you are really aware of what it means when spitting blood in someone’s mouth, the consequences that it may have from a medical point of view for the colleague who will now have to do exams, will have to undergo triple therapy in particular.”
As the video was widely shared on social media, many French people expressed horror at the police citing the man’s HIV status as an apparent justification for gratuitous violence.
On Twitter the French writer, journalist and director David Dufresne accused the police union of attempting to “defend the indefensible with indefensible pretexts”.
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The grassroots AIDS charity Act Up denounced “police violence” and “serophobia” (a fear or aversion to those with HIV), tweeting: “Alliance justifies beating a protester because this person allegedly spit blood on the police and said he was HIV positive… 2020… SHAME!”
Donc @alliancepolice justifie le fait de tabasser un manifestant parce que cette personne aurait cracher du sang sur les #fdo et dit être seropo… 2020… SHAME ! #ViolencesPolicieres #serophobie https://t.co/yzrJ0CxFXu
— Act Up Sud-Ouest (@actupsudouest) January 20, 2020
The Paris prosecutors’ office said on Sunday that an investigation was under way to determine whether “intentional violence by a person in a position of public authority” was committed, the BBC reported. The investigation will be carried out by an independent police oversight body.
President Emmanuel Macron condemned the protestors’ use of violence while warning that “unacceptable behaviour” by some officers could undermine the credibility of police departments.