Seen protesters. “I served as a target for a cowboy who was using his new toy”
That day, Olivier Beziade had decided to express “his fed up”. To express his dismay at the end of the month that has become so “difficult to wrap up”. It was January 12, 2019, the day of the demonstration of yellow vests in Bordeaux. “It was the first time that, with my wife, we were going to parade with them”, says the one who, at the time, worked as a fire safety supervisor for the rectorate of Bordeaux.
A “demonstration”, not a “war”. Olivier Beziade, now 51, insists on this point. “That day, a few isolated people may have thrown stones at the police. But there were no thugs, it was very calm. Moreover, at the start, we did not understand why they threw tear gas. “At that time, Olivier Beziade did like everyone else: he started running in the face of the progress of the police. Then, at one point, he found himself alone in a street, with behind him a group of CRS and members of the BAC (1) armed with defense ball launchers (LBD).
Olivier Beziade is then back to the police, without presenting any threat, as various images of the scene have proven. It is while turning around that he receives a rubber bullet at the level of the temple. The shock throws the protester face down on the ground. A disencirclement grenade then explodes right next to his face and causes injuries to his forehead as he lies on the ground.
Very quickly, Olivier Beziade, his face bleeding, was evacuated by the firefighters in very serious condition. At the hospital, the diagnosis fell like a cleaver: head trauma, cerebral hemorrhage and multiple facial fractures. “The first night, the doctors told my wife that I might not wake up from the induced coma I had been in. »
After four days of coma, Olivier Beziade wakes up in a state of great agitation. “I was screaming, trying to bite everyone… They had to tie me to my bed. “A few days later, the alarm clock is calmer but Olivier Beziade can no longer speak or walk. He doesn’t recognize his wife either. “The brain had to get back in place,” he says, before recounting the long road that followed to put a name on the faces of those close to him; to walk again; to start talking again with the help of a speech therapist. “Two years ago, I was unable to make slightly long sentences. Today, I am still looking for my words. I must have lost a third of my vocabulary. »
After his injury, Olivier Beziade, who became epileptic, was declared 80% disabled. “I was preparing to set up my own electricity company. I wanted to become independent, no longer work on weekends, see more of my children… In fact, it’s quite the opposite that happened. This LBD shot also blew up the family life of this father of three children, now aged 14, 8 and 6. “They suffered a lot from what happened to me. They had to go see shrinks. Because of my head trauma, I always have phases of depression and anger during which I scare my children. By mutual agreement with my wife, we decided to separate, for their good. Today, I continue to see my children but as soon as I feel that things are not going well, I call their mother who comes to pick them up. »
A few months after the events, the author of the shooting, a BAC policeman, was indicted for intentional violence with a weapon. The case is still under investigation. “It is important that it be judged even if the priority, for me, is to find a treatment that allows me to get better. To be stable to see my children”, continues Olivier Beziade, aware that this future trial will perhaps make it possible to understand the devastation that these so-called “non-lethal” weapons can cause.
“After a demonstration, we say: ‘There are X wounded among the demonstrators and X wounded among the police.’ These are abstract figures, which say nothing of the life after”, murmurs Olivier Beziade, who has nothing of an “anti-cop” militant. “The uniform, I know. I was a volunteer firefighter for twenty-two years. It made me realize that the police do a very difficult job. I considered them almost like colleagues. But there, I served as a target for a cowboy who indiscriminately used the new “toy” that had been placed in his hands. »
Seen by law enforcement. “For these young people, I was an enemy they had managed to defeat”
“In Rennes, it’s a bit like in Nantes. We know that the demonstrations are always quite hot. “This Thursday, March 23, 2023, Gabriel (2) does not have many illusions. He suspects that this demonstration against the pension reform, organized in the heart of the Breton city, will take place under high tension. “With my unit, we arrived in the center of Rennes quite early, around 9 a.m. We had time to set up since the demonstration was to start around 1 p.m., ”explains this 37-year-old policeman, member of a CRS unit based in western France.
A very quiet procession at the start. With just, here or there, a few young people “dressed in black”, multiplying the provocations towards the police. “Fingers of honor” and a whole slew of insults, in particular the now unavoidable Acab (3) well known to the police. “These insults have become so frequent that we end up not paying too much attention to them. Even if, behind the words, there is a hatred in the raw state of which it is difficult to understand all the springs”, confides Gabriel who, that afternoon, will quickly find himself face to face with an openly threatening crowd. .
At one point, his unit was sent to reinforce the mobile gendarmes who were a bit in difficulty in the face of a group of 300 to 400 people. Young people, again mostly dressed in black. “There was no longer a single union flag in this group, but very mobile people who advanced to throw everything they could get their hands on before beating a retreat very quickly”, says Gabriel who, that day, ensured the function of “shield” in his unit. “In a CRS group, there are the shields and the interveners. The mission of the first is to hold the shield to protect the colleagues who are behind. And allow them, for example, to throw a tear gas canister, ”he explains.
An hour to “take it all in the face”. To receive cobblestones and many other things. “Some individuals had poured cement or plaster on a handful of nails to make sort of balls bristling with sharp spikes. We also received bottles filled with excrement with which certain colleagues were covered, ”testifies Gabriel who, at the end of the afternoon, will end up receiving a pavement at the level of the kneecap. “The pain was searing, so strong that I collapsed screaming. My colleagues pulled me back to take cover. And what shook me a bit was the reaction of these young people. Hearing me scream in pain, they cried out for joy. As if they were celebrating a victory. For them, I was an enemy he had managed to defeat. I wondered if they would have let out the same cries of joy if I had found myself dead on the ground. »
At the hospital, Gabriel passed X-rays which showed no fracture. “It relieved me because I was afraid of being immobilized for months without being able to do anything. In fact, if the pain was so intense, it is because the ligament was affected, ”continues the policeman, who took ten days before being able to walk again. An injury ultimately “not very serious”, without sequelae, but with a lot of questions for this father, who joined the police at 21 “by vocation”. “The word is not too strong,” he says. I wanted to stop the thieves and defend the population. It’s a bit cliché to say that, but that’s really why I became a policeman. And that’s still why I still love my job so much today, ”admits Gabriel who, before joining the CRS, spent ten years as a peacekeeper in a police station. “It’s a job where you experience sometimes difficult things, where you come face to face with human and social misery on a daily basis. »
A way of saying that the CRS, even harnessed like Robocop, are not disconnected from the realities that surround them. Nor the causes that sometimes motivate the processions they are responsible for supervising. “With us too, there are people against the pension reform or who are struggling at the end of the month. And we are not there to prevent people from demonstrating but, on the contrary, to allow them to do so in complete safety”, continues this policeman, disconcerted by this “gratuitous” violence against the police. And also, sometimes, “comforted” by all these people who, very discreetly, on the sidelines of the demonstrations, “come to thank us for what we are doing”.