The killing of unarmed and handcuffed African-American George Floyd by a white police officer in the United States late last month has sparked protests against racism and police brutality in the US and elsewhere in the world, including in France.
In response, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced on Monday that the chokehold method “will be abandoned.”
“It will no longer be taught in police and gendarmerie schools. It is a method that has its dangers,” he said at a news conference.
Castaner stressed that there would be “zero tolerance” for racism in the police force, and that officers strongly suspected of racism would be suspended.
He also promised that the use of police body cameras would be boosted.
The death of another unarmed African-American, Eric Garner, in 2014 after a US police officer executed the chokehold technique on him during arrest sparked the global “Black Lives Matter” protest movement against racism and discrimination. Garner famously repeated the phrase “I can’t breathe!” as he lay on the ground and as the officer refused to loosen the chokehold on him.
The new reforms came after French President Emmanuel Macron called on his government to “accelerate” steps to improve police ethics earlier on Monday.
France’s police watchdog said it had received nearly 1,500 complaints against officers in 2019 — half of them for alleged brutality.
Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee onto the African-American’s neck for nearly nine minutes, as he gasped for breath and said “I can’t breathe.”
The protests in France are also held in continued reaction to the 2016 death of Adama Traore, a black French national who died after three police officers restrained him using the weight of their bodies.
“They died in exactly the same way,” said his sister, Assa Traore. “Adama carried the weight of three officers on his body.”
No one has been prosecuted for Traore’s death.
But the anger over the killing of Floyd in the US is giving the campaign for justice for Traore new impetus.
His family and their supporters have this week called for a day of nationwide protests in France.
“All the light shed on the George Floyd case has served as a reminder of the numerous other victims who died in the same conditions as George Floyd,” Almamy Kanoute, a French actor involved in the Traore campaign, said.
“We’re not saying the police in France are the same as in the United States. But the deadly techniques used in the United States are the same ones as in some European countries, the same ones that kill the same type of people,” he said.