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French police tossed cuffs in protest, but not for lockdowns

April 7, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows French police symbolically dropping their handcuffs to declare they will no longer participate in national lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. This video is from June 2020 and does not show a protest against COVID-19 restrictions. The French police officers in the video were protesting new limits on arrest tactics and criticism of alleged violence and racism in their ranks after George Floyd’s death in the United States.

THE FACTS: A video circulating widely on social media this week uses months-old footage to falsely claim French police are dropping their handcuffs in a statement against coronavirus restrictions.


In reality, the video shows events from June 2020, when French police gathered in rows to symbolically throw down their cuffs to protest new restrictions on arrest tactics after George Floyd’s death.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while Floyd was held face-down on the ground. Floyd, who was handcuffed, said he couldn’t breathe, and he eventually grew still. Body camera footage indicates Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Protests over police killings erupted worldwide, including in France, where Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced in June that the nation’s police force would no longer teach or permit chokeholds during arrests.

In his comments, Castaner acknowledged that there are racist police officers and promised “zero tolerance” for racism within the force going forward. He ordered police officers to be systematically suspended when they are suspected of racist acts and comments, in addition to criminal proceedings.

Police officers in France responded with their own protests, gathering in several cities to throw down their handcuffs in symbolic opposition to Castaner’s announcement.

The digital media company Brut covered one such protest on June 11 at a police headquarters in the Paris suburb of Bobigny. In a tweet with a video of the event, a Brut reporter said the police denounced the stigmatization of their profession and disagreed with Castaner’s decision to forbid the strangulation method during arrests.


A clip of Brut’s livestream that day is circulating anew this week along with false claims it shows an anti-lockdown protest.

“French police declare they are no longer participating in the lockdown by symbolically dropping their cuffs,” text over the video reads in a Monday TikTok post. The same video was shared with thousands of likes on Twitter and Instagram.

A side-by-side analysis confirmed this is an old video. There’s no evidence for the claim that French police are boycotting coronavirus restrictions.

French President Emmanuel Macron on March 31 announced a three-week nationwide school closure and a monthlong domestic travel ban, as the virus continued to put pressure on the country’s hospitals.


Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka contributed to this report from New York.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform. 

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: