EU wants explanation after lawmaker reports police violence

National/World
Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana

German lawmaker Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana speaks during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. The European Parliament said Wednesday it will complain to Belgian authorities after an African-born legislator Herzberger-Fofana said she was harassed by police when trying to take photos of an incident at a Brussels train station. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Parliament said Wednesday it will complain to Belgian authorities after a member of the EU legislature born in Africa said she was harassed by police while trying to take photos of an incident at a Brussels train station.

European Parliament President David Sassoli said Belgian authorities “owe us an explanation” after German lawmaker Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana said she filed a complaint for police violence against Brussels officers for grabbing her phone and handbag and trying to frisk her late Tuesday.

“I have been victim of police violence from the Belgian police. I consider this as a racist and discriminatory act,” Herzberger-Fofana told the plenary session of the European Parliament meeting in Brussels. Police denied the allegation.

Herzberger-Fofana, who was born in Mali and has German citizenship, said that she witnessed police officers confronting two black youths at the Brussels Nord station and said some of the officers turned against her when they saw she was filming the incident.

She said that four “armed policemen brutally pushed me against a wall. They violently grabbed my handbag. They blocked me against the wall, legs spread, and a policeman wanted to frisk me. I was treated in a humiliating way”

Brussels police said the legislator intervened in the police action and became part of the incident after she started filming it. Police spokeswoman Amal Ihkan said Herzberger-Fofana first refused to show her identity papers. After a subsequent check of her papers, she was allowed to leave, and Ihkan said images of the police action showed no violence or aggression was used against her.

Police said they have launched an internal probe into the incident.

Herzberger-Fofana made her remarks at the start of a debate on racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the United States on May 25. Floyd was a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving.

“What I experienced, at a time when the whole world witnessed the dramatic consequences of police brutality, is traumatizing,” Herzberger-Fofana said.

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