Eight arrests reported after isolated skirmishes as teens protest suspected rape of young black man with a police baton.
Under the banner, “march for justice and dignity“, thousands in Paris rallied against police brutality on Sunday, with authorities using tear gas against some demonstrators.
Protesters chanted “no justice, no peace” and “police everywhere, justice nowhere” to call for an end to what they say is the use of excessive police force, especially against black and other minority groups.
The protest was the latest demonstration sparked by the alleged rape of a young black man by police in February.
The 22-year-old man, identified only as Theo, was allegedly raped with a police baton when officers stopped him in the northern Paris suburb Aulnay-sous-Bois. He was hospitalised for two weeks.
One officer has been charged with rape, while three others have been accused of aggravated assault. A lawyer for the officer charged with rape said that any injury inflicted was done accidentally. All have denied any intentional wrongdoing.
Since February, Theo has become a symbol of minority victims of police brutality, prompting widespread protests that have sometimes descended into riots.
At Sunday’s march, Fatiha Bouras, a mother of a victim, said: “there are too many police killings, they have to stop”.
Co-organiser Amal Bentounsi told the crowd, “We would like for justice to be served.”
Her brother, Amine Bentounsi, was killed by police during a chase in a northern Paris suburb in 2012. This week, the officer involved, Damien Saboundjian, was found guilty of deliberate assault resulting in death and given a five-year suspended sentence.
Others at Sunday’s protests held banners with the faces of other people who they say have been victims of police violence, including Adama Traore.
On the same night that Theo was allegedly raped, a sold-out concert took place to support the family of Traore who died in police custody in July 2016.
It was his case that propelled the issue of police brutality into the spotlight across France last year. Police originally said he died of a heart attack, but a second autopsy found Adama passed away due to asphyxiation. An investigation is still ongoing.
And in 2005, France experienced what some call the worst riots in 40 years after the deaths two teenagers – Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna – who were electrocuted while hiding from police in a power transformer.
That incident prompted three weeks of violence in which 10,000 cars and 300 buildings were set on fire, spurring Nicolas Sarkozy, then interior minister, to declare a state of emergency. In 2015, the officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Sunday’s protests and similar demonstrations that have taken place since 2005 have also highlighted long-standing grievances found in French suburbs, which are home to large numbers of immigrants.
A 2009 study found that a person of African or Caribbean background is six times more likely to be stopped by French police than a white person.