French police officers were caught in a video while snatching a hospital nurse who spent months battling Coronavirus, from a chaotic crowd of health workers calling for better pay and working conditions in central Paris.
The 52-year-old nurse, identified as Farida, was pulled away, and another video showed a female officer dragging her by hair and prodding her with a truncheon.
The nurse was heard shouting "I'm a nurse!" and then pleading with the riot police, "I have asthma! I want my Ventoline," which is a medication that opens up the medium and large airways in the lungs. She was taken away by the riot squad to a nearby police station and charged with throwing projectiles at the police – an offense that could put her behind bars. After the video went viral, the violent arrest triggered outrage in France.
Soon after the arrest, Farida's daughter Imen Mellaz expressed her outrage on Twitter and said that her mother had worked for three months between 12 and 14 hours daily and finally got infected by the SARS-CoV-2. She added that Farida, who is also asthmatic, was demonstrating alongwith other nurses and doctors seeking raise in pay and better working conditions amid the pandemic.
"Nothing anywhere justifies an arrest like that. Not when someone is in a white coat, not when they are 1.55m (5ft), not when they are facing up to robocop," said Mellaz, whose claim that Farida caught Coronavirus is yet to be verified though it was confirmed that she was a hospital nurse.
AFP reported that as per a police source, "A woman, a nurse by profession, was arrested for contempt and throwing projectiles at the police." The source also said Farida was earlier filmed while throwing rocks and a police officer was hit by a projectile.
At the end of the protests which attracted around 18,000 participants in Les Invalides, 32 people were arrested for their suspected link with the violence. Many of these protesters were termed as hard-left activists or anarchists, said to have penetrated the demonstration by nurses, according to the police.
Violent Arrest of Hospital Nurse
However, the video of Farida's arrest has gone viral in France and a campaign has been launched to 'Free Farida' after the nurse was placed in custody. Taha Bouhafs, an anti-racist activist in Paris, said Farida was "traumatized" by her arrest, physically as well as morally and she suffered from several head wounds, bumps, and bruises.
As per a report in Daily Mail, "A woman in a white blouse, pulled by the hair, during an arrest, ended up being evacuated with a bloody face during the demonstration at the Invalides. She repeatedly called for her Ventoline." Later, a series of photos were shared on Twitter claiming that the woman in the image is none other than Farida.
Reports revealed that the police were seen using tear gas and baton charges on Tuesday afternoon. By 4 pm, they arrested 16 protesters. Thousands of demonstrators including doctors and nurses had joined the rally demanding better deal from the government.
One of the protesters, however, said that the march was infiltrated by radicals who wanted to take on the police and that they started throwing "missiles at officers, who responded in a manner that was very heavy-handed."