As France has been struggling to cope with a surge in violent protests that has left hundreds of police and demonstrators injured, a video showing officers making an unexpected conciliatory gesture has gone viral.
Footage posted on social media shows a group of about two dozen police officers in riot gear removing their helmets while standing just meters away from a crowd of Yellow Vest movement protesters – an umbrella group behind the massive rallies that have gripped France for several weeks.
The cheerful crowd welcomed the peace gesture by applauding the police and singing the French national anthem. The unusual event took place in the town of Pau in southwestern France, not far from the Spanish border.
The video quickly went viral as people rushed to share and repost it on social media. Most believed that the officers took off their protective headgear in a sign of solidarity with the protesters, who oppose new fuel taxes.
However, a local news organization suggested it was rather an attempt to pacify the crowd. Just hours before the video was taken, a large group of angry protesters had gathered near Pau’s town hall. A violent section of the crowd allegedly planned to break into the building, which was hosting a town council meeting at that time, Sud Ouest newspaper reported.
The tense situation led to a brief clash between the protesters and police at some point, but then the law enforcement forces decided to settle the matter peacefully. The commander of the police unit ordered his men to remove their helmets as the protesters demanded. The crowd then peacefully dispersed, according to the media outlet.
The fine gesture, however, did not lead to a lasting peace between the protesters and law enforcement, as Pau also witnessed some new scenes of violence, during high school student protests on Monday.
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