Women and babies dragged by French police during a housing protest


A video has emerged showing French police evicting African immigrants with babies and children during a housing protest in a Paris suburb.

Police arrived in the north-east Parisian suburb of La Courneuve last Wednesday and asked a group of about 60 mostly women and children to move, said Michael Hajdenberg, a journalist with the French media organization Mediapart.

The group had been living in the street since being evicted from their council homes on July 8 to make way for a new housing project, he said.

When the group failed to respond to the request, Hajdenberg said police officers forcibly removed them.

Authorities had offered to accommodate them for a short period in hotels, but Hajdenberg said the immigrants wanted more of a long-term guarantee of places to live.

The video shows police dragging away women with babies and young children. In one scene a woman with a baby wrapped to her back is dragged along the pavement while screaming and shouting.

Another scene shows what appears to be a pregnant woman lying on her back on the street. Police can also be seen carrying women away while children and babies are screaming.

Because the experience was so traumatic they have ended up accepting the offer to go into the hotel.

The incident lasted about 30 minutes said Hajdenberg, who added that "there were no serious injuries, mostly cuts and scrapes."

The immigrants are mostly from the Ivory Coast, said Michael Hoare, a spokesman for the campaign group Right to Housing.

"Most of them have been in France for between 3 to 10 years. Some of them have papers, some of them don’t. They have submitted demands to be legalized," Hoare told CNN.

Hoare said that on the day of the incident, 21 July, police had evicted journalists from the vicinity but that a member of DAL, a French rights group, had managed to film the scenes.

The arrested protesters were released later the same day and have since accepted short-term hotel accommodation, Hoare said.

"Because the experience was so traumatic they have ended up accepting the offer to go into the hotel and there are meetings going on about their future," he said.

Commissioner Christian Lambert from the Police Commissioner’s office of the town Bobigny said in a written statement: "An eviction is never a[n] simple procedure when there is resistance involved on behalf of those being evicted."

Regarding the scene in which a mother is dragged with her child on her back, the statement read: "The officers were not able to dislodge her by pulling on her arms because her arms were linked with people on both sides. Therefore they moved her by pulling on her legs. Within a meter or so the baby is dislodged and become apparent to another officer who immediately picks it up."

The statement added: "The situation of the evicted squatters is currently being examined to see if they can be re-housed depending on different criteria." To watch the video, click here.