Doctors had to amputate the testicle of a young man who was clubbed in the groin by a police officer during demonstrations in Paris last week, the man’s lawyer said.
Footage and footage from Thursday’s demonstrations circulating online shows a police officer punching a man on the ground between the legs and then leaving. The man is seen with a camera.
The incident came amid a wave of violence during a mostly peaceful march attended by tens of thousands of people opposing the government’s plan to raise the retirement age. About 1 million people marched in cities across France on Thursday.
The 26-year-old, identified in the French press as an engineer, said he was knocked to the ground, allegedly by an officer, while taking pictures during a confrontation between protesters and police. Another officer attacked him and allegedly planted his mace in the man’s groin.
Lawyer Lucie Simon said she was filing a complaint on behalf of her client alleging “voluntary violence resulting in mutilation by a person of public authority”.
“It was such a hard blow that he had to have a testicle amputated,” she said, adding that the engineer was still in hospital.
“This is not a case of self-defense or necessity. The evidence is in the images we have and the fact that he was not arrested at the time.”
The engineer, who lives on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, “is still in shock and keeps asking why” he was injured, the lawyer added.
Paris police chief Laurent Nunez ordered an investigation into the exact circumstances of the incident as outrage grew over what appeared to be a case of excessive force by the French police, a longstanding complaint.
The man told Libération newspaper that he is filing a lawsuit “so that this stops, because I am not the first person to be the victim of police violence.”
Government spokesman Olivier Veran told a local broadcaster that he felt “empathy” for the young man.
But he stressed “the need to understand the circumstances in which this intervention took place”.
The interior ministry said 80,000 people demonstrated in Paris on Thursday as part of nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
However, the far-left CGT union said it counted 400,000 protesters in the French capital.
French law enforcement agencies have long been plagued by complaints of excessive force. Police unions claim that their members are often victims of violence committed by some of the people they are supposed to protect.
The beating and clubbing in 2020 by three police officers of a black music producer, Michel Zecler, as he left his studio in Paris was a catalyst for limited reform. The most recent change was the appointment last year of a magistrate to head a unit investigating allegations of police abuse. Previously, police officers led the unit.
French President Emmanuel Macron ordered changes in 2021, saying “we have nothing to fear from more transparency”.
That same year, French lawmakers passed a “global security law” that strengthened certain law enforcement powers. The most controversial article, which initially restricted video or other images of security guards, was toned down to make it a crime to identify security guards “for the clear purpose of attacking their physical or psychological integrity.”
Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this article