Videos of French high-school pupils forced to kneel by police cause uproar


The images were taken on Thursday afternoon at Mantes-la-Jolie, a small town to the north-west of Paris after a protest by high-school students.

They show youngsters kneeling in rows or facing a wall as police in riot gear look on. Some have their hands tied behind their backs while others are forced to keep their hands on their heads.

In one of the videos a voice, believed to be a police officer, can be heard saying: "Now there's a class that's behaving well".

In all some 150 high-school pupils were arrested with the youngest being 12.

The arrests followed a protest by high-school students in the town that descended into violence. High school pupils have been protesting across France in recent days demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements. Many demos have descended into violence.

The local authority chief in the department of Yvelines, Jean-Jacques Brot, told Le Parisien newspaper: "Instructions were given to proceed to make arrests. I decided to proceed to show the determination of the state," adding that there had been unacceptable violence.

"These images make a big impression but no young people were hurt or mistreated, we did not register any complaints," said Brot.

The town of Mantes-la-Jolie had seen two days of clashes between pupils, local youths and police. Cars were burned and youths hurled rocks at police who responded with tear gas.


Police sources told Le Parisien some of the youngsters arrested on Thursday were carrying bars, baseball bats and canisters of pepper spray.

The local prosecutor Vincent Lesclous told Le Monde newspaper: "The images of these collective arrests are striking, that's for sure but in the face of the violence of these last days, we had to opt for a solution to preserve order."

Nevertheless the images shocked France's political class.

"Shocking, unacceptable. This is not the Republic. French youth humiliated. But what does power seek if not anger in return? ", wrote former Socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon.

Former Green Minister Cecile Duflot said: "We need to say 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."


There was similar reaction on the web with the hashtag #ManteslaJolie top of trending in France on Friday morning as members of the public vented their anger towards police.

The images only promise to add to the tensions in France with high-school students set to stage more protests on Friday ahead of the latest 'yellow vest' protest in Paris on Saturday, where authorities fear significant violence.

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