French-Brazilian rescuer Rodolphe Volte-Vieira (left) with his parents, Maria D’Austria Vieira and Abin Volte. Photo: Personal Archive

Originally posted on RFI

Danielle Franco

Brazilian civil servant Maria D’Austria Vieira does not hide her indignation with the aggression and arrest of her son, last Wednesday (15), during a demonstration in Paris against the pension reform. A video made by an independent French media shows the exact moment when the young man is immobilized and beaten by police.

French-Brazilian rescuer Rodolphe Volte-Vieira, 25, went to Wednesday’s demonstration accompanied by a friend. The young man told his family that he was walking along with the procession when he was surprised by the arrival of the police, who grabbed him and beat him, without having a chance to react.

In the video recorded by the La Luciole Media platform, the young man appears to be immobilized by two police officers. One of them puts his arm around the rescuer’s neck. The other holds Rodolphe by the arm and strikes the young man in the head twice with his truncheon. All around, people witnessing the scene react and protest against the brutality, but the French-Brazilian is surrounded by police before the recording is finished.

The scene was witnessed by Loïc, a friend who accompanied Rodolphe at the demonstration. About two hours after the arrest, the police contacted the Franco-Brazilian’s brother, who alerted the rest of the family to the young man’s whereabouts.

To RFI, Maria D’Austria, 61, described her despair with the situation. For two days, the son was incommunicado, in a police station in the 5th district of Paris, south of the capital. Family members and friends spent hours in front of the site waiting for news, without success. Only a lawyer had the right to talk to the young man.

Rodolphe was released on Saturday afternoon (18) and taken by his family to a hospital, where he underwent a series of medical tests. According to Maria D’Austria, her son is doing better, but he has many injuries and must undergo a new battery of medical analyzes during the week.

“Sometimes he talks about prison, but we don’t poke him too much, let him talk and it flows. But he’s really hurt, they hit him a lot”, she laments.

Unsanitary conditions in prison

According to the Brazilian, the son shared a cell with other detained demonstrators; Rodolphe was the most injured of them. The young man requested medical attention and was examined a few times on the spot, without ever being taken to a hospital. To the parents, the rescuer told that the prison conditions were unhealthy, there were not enough mattresses for everyone and the detainees were forced to share dirty blankets.

On Friday (17), Rodolphe was transferred to another prison in Paris. In total, the young man spent 72 hours trapped and injured.

“He has his head cut off because of the truncheon blows. He was also hit in the forehead, in the nose, in the back of the head, the neck is swollen, the back has bruises. He also has a deep scratch on the outside of his thigh”, lists Maria d’Austria.

“What worries me most is that they hit his right ear with the truncheon and his head is swollen with bruises. The fingers of the left hand were nearly broken. He said that the police also tried to kick him in the face,” he reiterates.

According to the Brazilian official, the police alleged the crime of outrage and rebellion to arrest the son. According to her, the accusation is false: “He did not rebel, he was just following the demonstration, walking with his friend”. “The police made an attack movement, and they [os policiais] they went after Rodolphe”, he points out.

The family awaits the young man’s positioning to know how the case will proceed. Maria D’Austria would like her son to initiate a reparation process to demand responses to the violence used by the police.

“He is not to blame for anything, otherwise they would not have released him quietly”, he reiterates. The young man left prison without being charged, receiving only a warning of obedience to authorities.

French-Brazilian rescuer Rodolphe Volte-Vieira. Photo: Personal archive

Revolt against pension reform

The protest in which Rodolphe was arrested and beaten is part of the strong popular mobilization against the controversial pension reform of Emmanuel Macron’s government. Last Thursday (16), the bill was adopted without a vote by the Assembly of Deputies, by decree, further revolting the country. The government will face two censure motions this Monday (20); if approved, they have the power to result in the executive’s downfall.

Maria d’Austria supports the mobilization and says she does not understand the violence committed against the participants in the acts. “Anyone can manifest. It’s our right to say we don’t want something. What is the purpose of this violence?”, she asks her.

The Brazilian, who has lived in France for 33 years, says that she has always participated in protests with her family. “The first demonstration we took Rodolphe to, he was about ten months old”.

According to her, at that time, there was no police violence in the acts and it was safe to take children to the protests. “I, as a mother, demand that the government not beat our children. On nobody’s kids, and not even mine,” she says.

Like almost 80% of French people, the civil servant expresses her dissatisfaction with the pension reform and the way the government wants to impose it, through the controversial article 49.3 of the Constitution. Among the various changes and the end of privileges of various categories, the text foresees increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64 years. The bill is also criticized by the opposition for being particularly harmful to women workers.

“We have to stop exploiting the people, there has to be a limit. That is why everyone is angry”, he concludes.

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