Petition to disband French riot police unit passes 140,000 signatures

If 500,000 signatures are obtained, it could force a debate in the French parliament

The BRAV-M police unit has become “a symbol of police violence in France”, critics say
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A petition to disband the French BRAV-M riot police unit has reached 140,000 signatures in five days.

The unit has been heavily criticised for alleged actions during recent pension reform protests.

At the time of writing, the petition has hit more than 141,000 signatures since its launch on March 23.

If the petition reaches 500,000 signatures from at least 30 different French departments, it will automatically trigger a discussion in a parliamentary committee. This committee, made up of MPs, can then decide to bring it to the Assemblée Nationale for wider debate.

Officers from the BRAV-M unit have been present at various protests against pension reform, as well as at the action against the farming reservoirs at Sainte-Soline, in Deux-Sèvres, last Saturday (March 25).

Read more: Man in coma after ‘intolerable violence’ at France reservoir protests

‘Symbol of police violence’

The online petition is hosted on the Assemblée Nationale website, in a petition space that was set up in 2020.

It reads: “The police repression in our country must lead to the imperative dismantling of the BRAV-M being put back on the agenda.

“The country is awash with accounts of violent and brutal abuses committed by these motorised brigades against demonstrators trying to voice their opposition to a project of social regression.

“These testimonies are circulating throughout the world, calling out to the international community and tarnishing the image of our country. They show a disproportionate and arbitrary use of force, in contradiction with the national law enforcement scheme.”

BRAV-M stands for ‘Brigades de répression de l'action violente motorisées’ which translates as ‘motorised brigades for violence repression’. They are typically on motorbikes and wear heavy body suit armour and helmets. They are called to disperse any violence during protests or riots.

However, opponents claim that they escalate and cause more violence, throw tear gas projectiles dangerously, and are brutal in their repression techniques.

They have become “one of the symbols of police violence”, the petition says.

Read more: Video appears to show police officer punching protester in France

The BRAV-M unit was created during the gilets jaunes protest period, which began in 2018.

Their use of motorbikes was intended to make it easier for them to patrol protest routes, and make them more mobile than other units such as the gendarmerie or CRS.

However, members of the unit are currently the subject of several judicial inquiries in connection with violence against protesters during recent pension strikes.

In 2019, the United Nations placed France under “in-depth investigation” for police violence allegations and Human Rights violations during the gilets jaunes movement. France was the only developed country to appear on the investigation list, which also included Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Haiti.

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