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French high school students protest against police brutality

The case has sparked a number of protests against police brutality,  including one at Paris's Place de la République on 18 February  2017.
The case has sparked a number of protests against police brutality, including one at Paris's Place de la République on 18 February 2017. Reuters/Charles Platiau

French high school students blockaded lycées on Thursday and took to the streets of Paris to show their support for a young man who was allegedly raped by a police officer while in police custody. 

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The students were responding to the call known as "Blockades for Theo" on Twitter, under the handle @Mili, which stands for 'Mouvement Inter Luttes Independant' (independent inter-struggles movement).

The blockades took place at about a dozen establishments in various neighbourhoods throughout the city, as groups of students met early in the morning to erect barriers and move rubbish bins in front of school entrances. 

Police say the student demonstrations had not been authorized and that a related protest held later in the day in the city's Place de Nation was also illegal. It is believed several hundreds of students attended.

City officials had sent messages to students prior to Thursday's demonstrations, instructing them not to participate in any violent acts. It is not clear what consequences, if any, the student protesters could face.

Students say Thursday's blockades and demonstrations were meant to show their support for a 22 year-old black youth worker from Paris's Aulnay-sous-Bois suburb. The man known simply as Theo was taken into police custody in early February, where he suffered a number of injuries, including anal injuries, which later required his hospitalisation.

One officer has been charged with rape and three others with volontary assault, after video emerged showing the young man being set upon during the arrest.

The incident has sparked unrest resulting in millions of euros worth of damage but so far, no serious injuries. According to a police source, nine students were arrested on Wednesday after participating in demonstrations outside their high school west of Paris.

French President Francois Hollande has promised justice would be served in Theo's case.

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