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Man loses testicle in France pension protest crackdown: lawyer

A French police officer dealt a man with a camera such a strong truncheon blow during a protest that he had to have a testicle amputated, the man's lawyer said Sunday.

Man loses testicle in France pension protest crackdown: lawyer
Demonstrators gather at a rally in Paris on January 19, 2023, over plans to raise the legal retirement age. Photo: Alain JOCARD/AFP

Images and footage from Thursday’s demonstrations, captured by TV channel BFM, shows the police officer hitting a man on the ground between the legs, and then leaving.

The man is seen holding a camera.

Lawyer Lucie Simon said she was filing a complaint on behalf of her client, a 26-year-old Franco-Spanish engineer who was taking pictures of the gathering, for “voluntary violence that led to mutilation by a person vested with public authority”.

“It was such a strong blow that he had to have a testicle amputated,” she said, adding that the engineer was still in hospital.

“This is not a case of self-defence or necessity. The proof is in the images we have and the fact that he was then not arrested.”

The engineer, who lives on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, “is still in shock and keeps asking why” he was wounded, the lawyer added.

The Paris police department said it had ordered an internal investigation, adding that the incident had happened in “a context of extreme violence and within a police manoeuvre to arrest violent individuals”.

Government spokesman Olivier Véran told the BFMTV broadcaster that he felt “empathy” for the young man.

But he stressed “the need to understand the conditions in which this intervention occurred”.

The interior ministry said 80,000 people marched in Paris on Thursday, as part of nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to extend the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The hard-left CGT union however said it counted 400,000 protesters in the French capital.

The demonstration was largely peaceful, but around the Bastille area of Paris, some demonstrators hurled bottles, bins and smoke grenades at police, who responded with tear gas and charged to disperse the troublemakers, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

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PARIS

‘Drunks, drug-dealers and pickpockets’ – French police crackdown at Paris Gare du Nord

Police in the capital are planning a massive operation to clean up Paris' chaotic and grotty Gare du Nord station - described by the local police commander as "full of drunks, crack dealers and pickpockets".

'Drunks, drug-dealers and pickpockets' - French police crackdown at Paris Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord serves not only as one of the major rail hubs for the capital, but also the arrival point for the Eurostar and shuttles from Paris’ two main airports – meaning that it is often the first part of the city that tourists see.

And it doesn’t give a good impression – the station is dark, confusingly laid out and its infrastructure is crumbling, so it’s far from uncommon to see buckets placed to catch water from the leaking rook.

But it’s the security aspect that worries the police – as the station has also become a hotspot for pickpockets, unlicensed taxi drivers, illegal street vendors and drug dealers, as well as a hangout for homeless people, many of whom have mental health problems.

Although the biggest security problem is undoubtedly pickpocketing – especially of confused, newly arrived tourists – there are occasionally more serious incidents, such as the attack on January 11th when a man randomly assaulted seven members of the public with a sharpened chisel.

A year previously, another knife-wielding man, later revealed to be homeless and with mental health problems who frequented the station, was shot by police.

Police presence in the station has now been massively stepped up, with dozens of officers patrolling at all hours of the day and night, in addition to the soldiers from Operation Sentinelle who make regular patrols of Gare du Nord (and other sites that have the potential to be terror attack targets).

The commander of the unit based at Gare du Nord told Le Parisien: “Unlicensed cigarette sellers, crack cocaine dealers, pickpocketing, drunk people – these are all problems that characterise Gare du Nord.

However, she added that things have improved in recent years, saying: “There is no longer a war between rival gangs, who used to come here regularly to fight in front of the [now-defunct] Foot Locker store. Many new stores have moved in. The light is soothing. It’s not an anxiety-provoking place at all.”

The station – through which 700,000 people pass every day – has long been a sore point for city authorities, who are well aware of the poor impression it gives to new arrivals.

However in 2021, an ambitious plan to completely redevelop it and add a huge new shopping mall was rejected. Instead, it was decided to simply give the existing station a revamp in time for the 2024 Olympics. 

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