British tourist gassed by police after being arrested at pro-Palestinian protest in Paris

A British family on holiday accidentally got caught up in a pro-Palestinian demonstration and was tear gassed by French police.

Mum-of-one Radia Austin, 46, has questioned whether Paris will be a safe place to host the Olympics in July after her eight-year-old son Lawrence developed acute eye problems.

She said the schoolboy was heard screaming in pain after police “blindly” hurled tear gas canisters into the crowd.

Radia, Lawrence and his father, Paul Austin, 45, were returning to their nearby apartment when one of the cylinders fell at the son's feet.

And she says when she called the police for help, they simply told her to “wash her eyes.”

Two weeks later, Lawrence is still suffering from throbbing pain in her eye and plans to see a specialist.

Lawrence was gassed by police after being arrested at a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris.
Lawrence was gassed by police after being arrested at a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris. (Radia Austin / SWNS)

Radia, from Betchworth, Surrey, said: “I was scared and in shock, my eyes were burning and I was struggling to breathe but my biggest concern was for my young child.”

“I was just crossing the road to get to my apartment and as I was crossing I heard an explosion and the next thing I saw gas erupt.

“I woke up unable to breathe, my eyes were burning, people started screaming and my son started crying.

“I just went back to the police and said, 'Help me, my son is in pain,' but they just stared at us and didn't help.

“Since then he has had nightmares of screaming and screaming at night and keeps asking why the police did this to him.”

Radia, an English interpreter, and lawyers Paul and Laurence visited the French capital from May 25 to May 28 during the half-term holiday.

After visiting the Eiffel Tower, they returned to their apartment to find a pro-Palestinian protest taking place nearby.

Pro-Palestinian protests in Paris
Pro-Palestinian protests in Paris (Radia Austin / SWNS)

She said: “We were walking hand in hand behind the fence on the tourist side, not on the main road which was closed off for protesters.”

“[When they threw the canisters] With smoke and fumes hanging in the air, it felt surreal, like a war zone.

“Even though we were so close, we couldn't make it to the apartment. We didn't know what was going on with my son. His eyes were hurting, he was crying and screaming in pain.”

“My son cried all night and the tear gas kept going off. I said I was going downstairs, but it was impossible to go outside to eat or drink because the tear gas kept going off.”

Radia said the use of tear gas continued throughout the night.

“When we got home, my son's eyes were still a little unwell. We thought it might be hay fever but the medicine wasn't working so we booked an appointment to see a specialist,” Radia said.

The French police (La Police Nationale) did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that extreme heat in July and August could cause athletes to collapse or even die at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

A group of 11 Olympians, climate scientists and thermal physiologists from the University of Portsmouth sounded the warning in a new report, “Ring of Fire”, published on Tuesday.

They said the intensifying heatwave and extreme temperatures were limiting athletes' ability to perform and making them more susceptible to deadly heat stroke, making it “impossible” to host the Summer Olympics.

The average temperature in Paris during the Olympics is expected to be 21 degrees Celsius, but there will be many days when the maximum temperature exceeds 30 degrees Celsius, making it difficult for athletes to carry out strenuous exercise.

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