PARIS: French authorities are investigating an attack on a transgender woman who was assaulted and jeered at a demonstration in central Paris against Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika that sparked outrage Wednesday among activists and politicians.
A video of the incident on Sunday, which has been viewed over 1.5 million times on Twitter, showed a group of protesters rounding on the woman as she came out of the metro onto Place de la Republique where the demonstration was taking place.
One man reaches out, ruffles her hair and taunts her in Arabic as she climbs the steps to jeers.
Dressed in a skirt and striped shirt, she seeks to move through the crowd, a mixture of expatriates and people of Algerian origin. One man throws a flurry of punches at her while another aims a kick in her direction.
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A girl wearing an Algerian flag around her shoulders apparently tries to intercede before a team of metro security officials arrive on the scene and escort the woman away.
In an interview with BFM TV the woman, identified only as Julia, aged 31, said she was confronted by three individuals.
"One of the three looked at me and said 'You're a man, you're going nowhere, you're not allowed pass' and put his hand on my chest."
Another, she said, made an obscene gesture while two others "laughed and threw beer on me."
It was not clear whether she was referring to the attack caught on camera or to another earlier incident.
French prosecutors have opened an investigation into "violence committed on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity," a judicial source said. One person had been detained but was later released, the source added.
The latest in a spate of anti-LGBT attacks in the French capital triggered a flurry of condemnation and expressions of sympathy for the victim.
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"Everyone should be able to move about freely in public spaces whatever their gender. This video shows it's not the case and that there is still a lot of progress to be made," the president of the SOS Homophobie campaign group, Joel Deumier, said, calling for the attackers to face justice.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also expressed outrage and tweeted that "those responsible for this intolerable act should be identified and punished."
There have been weekly demonstrations in Paris and other French cities calling on the ailing Bouteflika to resign. He finally stepped down late on Tuesday after weeks of pressure.
Marlene Schiappa, the government minister in charge of promoting gender equality combatting discrimination, tweeted that homophobia and transphobia were "not opinions" but expressions of "ignorance and hatred".
The number of attacks on the French transgender community shot up by 54 per cent to 186 reported incidents in 2017, SOS Homophobie said in a report last year.
Paris has also been the scene of several homophobic attacks in recent months.
The head of a French gay rights NGO suffered a broken nose in October after being punched in the face on the street and told he "should be burned."
A month previously, a young actor, Arnaud Gagnoud, was insulted and beaten with a helmet after hugging his partner outside a theatre in eastern Paris. Gagnoud required seven stitches after the attack.
Agression verbale et physique #transphobe place de la République à Paris. Effet de meute insupportable contre cette personne. Nous adressons tout notre soutien à la victime. Les auteurs de ces actes doivent être sanctionnés. Cc: @Lyes_Alouane https://t.co/Kz1aCPvcuk— SOS homophobie (@SOShomophobie) April 2, 2019