A video showing over 100 students forced by the police to kneel with their hands in the air is shocking France. The video was recorded Thursday in Mantes la Jolie, a suburban area 57 kilometers west of Paris.
The youngest person shown in the video was reported to be only 12 years old.
Politicians, lawyers or trade unionists in education, many have been outraged by the violence of the humiliation suffered by young people. “We must say things calmly but firmly: what happened with the students of Mantes-la-Jolie-these scenes of which there are many photos and videos- is simply intolerable,” writes former Minister Cecile Duflot.
On Friday, the French Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer announced an investigation into the mass arrests of the students allegedly involved in protests.
According to official figures, there were protests in 300 schools, of which 80 were blocked. Over 700 people were arrested in the context of demonstrations. They are specifically protesting against modifications on the BAC Exam (entrance exams) and increase in inscription fees to access universities.
Student protests emerged in the heat of the “yellow vests” protest against austerity measures by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has launched attacks on pensioners and workers’ unions, earning the title “president of the rich.”
Despite Macron’s announcement that he would not go ahead witht he planned fuel tax increases, students, workers, and regular citizens have organized protests for Saturday. The government announced 89,000 law enforcement agents will be deployed throughout the country, including 8,000 in Paris.
“The image is necessarily shocking,” Blanquer said in an interview with France Inter.
In the video 146 young men appear on their knees, mostly with their hands on their heads, guarded by police that had arrested them shortly before for allegedly participating in altercations.
Despite admitting the images were shocking, Blanquer requested “caution” when interpreting these images, stressing France is “in a climate of exceptional violence” and calling the students “professionals of violence.”
According to the official story, the students burned wastebaskets, stole gas cylinders and attacked the police who “tried to neutralize them”.
The police reported that “37 of the presents, most of them hooded, were found carrying sticks, baseball bats and tear gas containers.”
According to Blanquer most of the people arrested were quickly released, while others will be tried.