The French public have exploded in anger after a video was posted online showing a man with no legs and only one arm sitting on a train platform, with his prosthetic legs scattered around him after being searched by police.
The footage shot at Paris Gare de Lyon railway station was posted on Facebook by Jean-Didier Bakekolo, who said he witnessed the May 2 incident.
The video starts with police officers walking away from the amputee who is sitting on the floor with his prosthetic legs removed.
“Officer, officer, we need you. Officer, turn back please. This is humiliation, it is not normal,” Bakekolo is heard shouting to the officers. But they don’t turn back.
The camera then returns to the scene of the incident where the handicapped man sits on the platform and is trying to put his prosthetic limbs back on.
“I found myself witnessing a police search of exceptional brutality. The officers forced this man to undress and left him struggling to put back his prosthetic legs… He was ill-treated to the point of being forced to sit on the ground partially undressed,” Bakekolo later told France 24.
The victim of the alleged harassment was later identified as François Bayga. Despite his physical disability, he leads an active life, according to his Facebook photos. He enjoys playing rugby, and is a member of wheelchair rugby club CAPSAAA-PARIS.
François Bayga demande à être filmé lorsque les 3 policiers l’abandonnent après l’avoir humilié à Gare de Lyon pic.twitter.com/O7BOi51Hd2
— GuedGued (@_Pourquoi) May 4, 2016
In an interview with French media, Bayga said he was traveling from the Gare de Lyon station to the Gare du Nord when he met three police officers.
“They demanded my papers and I took off my back pack and showed them,” he said. “I gave them my telephone, my medical card and my membership card at my wheelchair rugby club.”
However, it appears the documents didn’t satisfy the police. Bayga said he told them that he has made a formal request for the right to live in France and is awaiting an answer.
“They accused me of stealing my phone. I started to get angry. I didn’t know what they wanted. I was pushed up against wall and one of the policemen pulled at my leg. I explained them several times it was prosthetic…They insisted on searching me. I felt completely humiliated,” he said.
After the search, police appeared to leave without helping Bayga to put his prosthetic limbs back on.
The video has been watched at least 190,000 times with many users on social media saying they were outraged at police brutality towards the handicapped man.
“And then the cops are surprised that we do not like [them],” Daniel Garner, a Facebook user said, while Agnes Gaudy added: “My heart is with that poor man.”
Comments under Bakekolo’s video included: “What a shame!” “Shame on France,” “Shock,” “Inhuman and degrading treatment,” “This is outrageous,” and “Being a policeman does not give you the right to humiliate.”
France’s official ombudsman, Jacques Toubon, has announced on Twitter there would be an inquiry into the incident.
Police, however, have their own version of the event. A source close to the case told French media that the man “was urinating on a trash can on the platform” before being confronted by officers.
“The man started arguing… The officers decided to conduct an inspection. Then they were surprised to feel a hard object while inspecting his legs, then the individual dropped his pants and showed his prosthetic legs,” French media cited the source as saying.