SHAFAQNA – Earlier this week a video shot by onlookers at the Gare de Lyon in Paris went viral as it clearly shows a visibly distressed handicapped man being harasses by Police. The individual, who has two prosthetic legs and is missing an arm, is seen sitting partially undressed on the platform of the train station. His prosthetic legs, clothes and belongings are scattered around him and three policemen stand over him. They hand him back his clothes, then walk away despite requests for help from the man who filmed the video.
François Bayga, the man in the video, filed a complaint, and an investigation into the incident has been opened. A police source told French radio station Europe 1 that Bayga was urinating on the platform, which is why the police officers stopped him, searched him and wrote him a ticket. The source said that Bayga was angry and agitated by the interaction and that he removed his own prosthetics.]
This footage was first posted at midnight on Tuesday, May 3 by Jean-Didier Bakekolo, who filmed the scene. In scarcely 24 hours, the video already had 23,000 views. The video was picked up by other Facebook users and some of these reposts had more than 300,000 views.
The video outraged many social media users, who denounced “police violence” and “racial profiling”.
François Bayga, the man the video told Shafaqna what happened.
“On Monday, I was looking for the right train to get to the Gare du Nord. Three policemen came up to me while I was on the platform. They asked to see my identity documents so I took off my backpack and got them out to show them.
I gave them my phone and my AME card (a card that guarantees government health benefits). I also showed them my membership card to my wheelchair rugby club. But I didn’t have all the papers they wanted. I live in France but I’m still waiting for my papers to be processed (Editor’s note: Bayga is not a French citizen).
I told them that and they told me that I shouldn’t be in this train station. They asked me where I was living and I told them that I’m currently living in a group home. Next, they asked me how I got my telephone and accused me of stealing it. I started getting mad because I didn’t understand what they wanted from me.
At that point, they pushed me up against the wall. I struggled with them and one of the police officers pulled at my leg. He felt the it was hard and he wanted to know what I was carrying. I told them several times that I was wearing prostheses. They searched me all the same.
I was angry so I took everything off. Then, I sat on the ground to show them exactly what they wanted.”
At this point a passer-by who followed up the altercation decided to get involved – outraged by Police blatant disregard for Mr Bayga’s medical condition and dignity.
“The onlooker who was filming the interaction started making gestures to me. He wanted me to calm down, so I wouldn’t make the situation worse. The police handed me back my belongings and then they left. Thankfully, an onlooker helped me to get dressed and put my legs back on. Otherwise, I would have just been stuck on the ground. I felt completely humiliated.”
Jean-Didier Bakekolo, who filmed the video of the incident made the following statement:
“The police carried out this extremely brutal search right in front of me at the Gare de Lyon,” Bakekolo said. “These officers demanded that the man remove his clothes. In order to comply with their demands, he ended up on the ground, without his prostheses.”
Paris officials have categorically refused to comment on the matter, preferring to argue “national security” to evade any form of accountability.