Videos showing rows of French high school students on their knees, with hands on heads, some lined up against a wall with helmeted police officers armed with batons standing over them, have stirred waves of criticism online.
The footage captures the moment officers detained education reform protesters in Mantes-la-Jolie in north-central France on Thursday. The majority of them were teens from local high schools.
D'autres images de l'interpellation de dizaines de lycéens, aujourd'hui à Mantes-la-Jolie. pic.twitter.com/ghv8K91e7l
— Violences Policières (@Obs_Violences) December 6, 2018
Released by the Violences Policières (Police Violence) Twitter group on Thursday evening, the video gathered thousands of retweets and angry comments, a lot of them saying that it looked like the “execution [of children] by firing squad.”
The unarmed teens, most with backpacks, standing on their knees created a sharp contrast with armed-to-the-teeth officers. “For me what happens in the picture is intolerable, regardless of the context,” one person noted.
Following Thursday’s clashes, a total of 153 people, mostly students, were arrested in Mantes-la-Jolie, according to officials. The situation was tense near many other high schools across the whole country, with protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and glass bottles at officers. Police resorted to tear gas to disperse rioting teens.
As of Friday morning, some 700 high schools across the country were swept by protests and 400 of them were closed, the National Students’ Union said.