The video, filmed by a member of the social housing charity Droit au Logement (DAL), shows officers roughly handling women and children as they break up a group of 150 squatters who were evicted from a tower block in La Courneuve, north-east of Paris.
At one point, a woman is shown being pulled by her legs across the ground, her baby – which she had been carrying on her back – dragged along the concrete after her.
The Seine-Saint-Denis police department insisted the level of violence was not extreme. "The operation was carried out within the rules," it said. The squatters had been ordered to leave the premises three times and the expulsion had taken place "in relatively good conditions".
But the footage, captured on 21 July and viewed more than 500,000 times on the internet, aroused strong condemnation by viewers and activists. Jean-Baptiste Ayrault, spokesman for the DAL, demanded an investigation.
"There is clearly a limit [to what is acceptable]," he told French radio. "Normally the police do not behave like this and I am afraid that we are seeing this kind of behaviour increasingly often. The head of state [Sarkozy] governs with the police; they feel protected."
The footage, which the anonymous film-maker claimed in Le Parisien today to have shared in order to "show the degree of violence used" by certain members of the police, comes amid a heated debate in France about a law and order crackdown announced by Sarkozy last week.
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