After a week of large demonstrations against racism and police brutality, at home and abroad, the French government announced Monday that police will no longer be able to use chokeholds when arresting people.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the use of chokeholds – which he described as applying pressure on an individual’s neck or throat while holding them on the ground – was a “dangerous method” and will no longer be taught in police training.
“I hear the criticism, I hear a powerful cry against hatred,” said Castaner, referring to large Black Lives Matter protests that took place in several major French cities last week. He added “racism has no place in our society, not in our Republic.”
While motivated by the outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the French protesters also demanded justice for Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who died in police custody after fleeing an identity check outside Paris four years ago.
His sister, Assa Traoré, said police told her that his final words were “I can’t breathe,” echoing Floyd’s final words.
Castaner referred to the Traoré case in his remarks, saying French President Emmanuel Macron had asked the country’s Justice Minister for information about it.
“We want total transparency. In the face of excitement, of comments, of certainties, only truth and transparency count. This is what the President is encouraging us to strive toward,” he said.
But Traoré’s family has already rejected an offer to meet with Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, according to the family’s campaign group ‘Truth for Adama.’
“Our lawyer was contacted today by the office of Mrs. Nicole Belloubet, Minister of Justice… He was asked to organize a meeting between [Belloubet] and the family of Adama Traoré,” the group said in a press release on Twitter Monday.
“The Traoré family refused to meet with the [Minister of Justice] to discuss the case.”
The group said that the family has been waiting for legal progress for four years, “not an invitation to the discussion which would have no procedural purpose,” and called for another national rally this Saturday. This comes after huge crowds filled the streets around the High Court in Paris last Tuesday, for a protest against the alleged case of racist police brutality.
In his speech, Castaner denied that French police “targeted violence” against people of color. “The French police are not the American police,” he added.
Castaner also called on police to enforce the use of body cameras, especially during arrests, and stressed the obligation for officers to display their ID numbers. He announced further measures including obligatory annual training.
“Every substantiated suspicion of racism” in the police force will result in suspension, he added. “I want zero tolerance for racism in our Republic.”
According to a report released on Monday by the internal watchdog of the police (IGPN) there has been an increase of 41% of police internal investigations for police violence between 2019 and 2018.
CNN’s Ya Chun Wang and Benjamin Berteau in Paris contributed to this report.