Police deployed tear gas on crowds of tens of thousands in a Paris banlieue reacting to the police’s conclusion on Saturday that an officer’s rape of a young Black man was “accidental,” despite his severe anal and head injuries from the assault last week.
Holding “let’s be ungovernable signs,” some protesters broke store windows and set fire to an RTL radio van, according to AFP. Shots, fireworks and projectiles were also seen coming from the crowd, reported Liberation. Social media reports circulated of injuries and of police circulating the crowd and blocking points of access.
Chants evoked the deaths of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, who were electrocuted while escaping a violent police search in 2005, and of Adama Traoré, killed while in police custody in 2016. Both incidents sparked widespread protests and a Black Lives Matter-style movement.
Other protests have erupted across the country since last week, but the events in front of the local council in Bobigny, known as one of Paris’s toughest suburbs, were the biggest and most rowdy. A Bobigny court will rule whether the policeman faces trial on Feb. 20, while three others face aggravated assault and were removed from duties.
The officers allegedly assaulted the young man, identified as “Theo,” after he confronted them for slapping someone during an ID check. He said that one then anally raped him with a truncheon, and all four spat on him, beat his genitals and called him racial slurs.
French police responded that the penetration was accidental and that his pants “slipped down on their own,” leading an internal inquiry to claim there was insufficient evidence to prove intended rape.
French Prime Minister visited Theo in the hospital on Tuesday and tweeted that, “justice is underway, we must trust in it.”
Theo, who is still recovering from his injuries, told Le Parisien, “Violence is not the way to support me. Justice will do its job.”