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Paris inquiry opened into police removal of protesters

An inquiry has been opened in Paris after hundreds of climate change protesters were forcibly removed from a bridge during a protest last week.

The preliminary inquiry opened on Monday July 1, and will investigate “voluntary violence by people with public authority”, after around 300 protesters from the Extinction Rebellion climate change movement were removed from the Sully Bridge on Friday June 28.

Photos and videos from the day appear to show that some protesters were dragged away by law enforcement, while others were targeted with police tear gas.

Protesters claim that they were not acting irresponsibly or violently, and were taking part in a non-violent sit-in on the bridge, when police arrived.

The inquiry, by police enforcement body l’Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale (IGPN), will seek to clarify the chain of command on the day, and the events leading up to the “green light” being given to use tear gas.

Reports suggest that the police prefecture of Paris allegedly gave the order, as part of their responsibility to maintain order and keep traffic flowing.

Now, minister for the interior, Christophe Castaner, has also demanded a report on the “arrangements” of police actions.

In a statement, he said: “A technical inspection of the CRS has been started, and a report has been requested from the police commissioner, on the arrangements for managing this policing operation, which is necessary to restore normal flow of traffic in the heart of Paris.”

Equality minister Marlène Schiappa has also commented on the events.

She said: “Police have a duty to maintain extremely precarious order, [with protests] that are taking place within the context of months of protests from the gilets jaunes. At a given point, police have a need to re-establish public order."

She acknowledged that the protesters had been peaceful, adding: “We must wait for the results of the inquiry. It is important to take into account all of the factors, and always watch out for images taken out of context.”

Extinction Rebellion, a movement against climate change, first emerged in the UK. It is usually described as a non-violent, “civil disobedience” movement, in which protesters block roads to draw attention to problems associated with global warming and climate change.

In Paris, protesters were chanting slogans such as: “Police officers, be gentle; We are doing this for your children” (“Policiers, doucement; on fait ça pour vos enfants”).

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