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POLICE VIOLENCE

20,000 rally in Paris for black man who died in police custody

Thousands of people defied a police ban and converged on the main Paris courthouse for a demonstration denounce the death of Frenchman Adama Traoré, who died shortly after his arrest in 2016, and in solidarity with Americans demonstrating against the death of George Floyd, 2 June 2020.
Thousands of people defied a police ban and converged on the main Paris courthouse for a demonstration denounce the death of Frenchman Adama Traoré, who died shortly after his arrest in 2016, and in solidarity with Americans demonstrating against the death of George Floyd, 2 June 2020. AP - Michel Euler

Thousands of people rallied in Paris and around France on Tuesday evening to demand justice for Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old man who died in police custody in 2016 under circumstances many protesters have likened to the death of George Floyd in the United States.

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Images posted to social media showed the scale of the gathering at the courthouse at the Porte de Clichy in northwest Paris, which police said gathered more than 20,000 people. 

The rally went ahead despite a ban from police, who cited limits on the size of public gatherings due to the coronavirus epidemic. 

Many demonstrators wore protective face masks. Some held placards that read “Justice for Adama”, others showed support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States and the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“It’s just the beginning,” Adama’s sister Assa Traoré told the crowd, vowing to build a movement against police violence in general and reading names of Floyd, her brother and others who have died in custody in France and elsewhere. 

“The list is too long,” she said.  

As the rally was beginning, and independent review commissioned by Traoré’s family concluded the young man had died of asphyxiation while being pinned to the ground in the prone position, a controversial method for police to hold a detained person. 

The conclusions contradict those of a court-ordered medical analysis released four days earlier, which cited the cause of death to be a heart defect. 

Smaller crowds gathered in other cities, including 2,500 people in Lille and several hundred in Marseille and Lyon. 

Protest under Covid-19 ban

The Adama Committee, which has support from left-wing groups and the Yellow Vest movement, called the rally on social media 29 May but did not declare it with the authorities.

Hours before the gathering, police declared it illegal under temporary exceptional laws relating to the Covid-19 health emergency, which "forbids any gathering in public space of more than 10 people”. 

After a calm that prevailed for two hours, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds as some protesters built burning barricades and smashed windows of shops and bus shelters.

In surrounding streets, bars and restaurants that had opened for the first time in nearly three months quickly put everything away to avoid damage as police chased protesters through surrounding streets.

Police said Wednesday they had arrested 18 people in the incidents that erupted following the main rally.

“Violence has no place in a democracy,” tweeted Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in the evening after the demonstration.

“Nothing justifies the incidents in Paris this evening, at a time when public gatherings are banned to protect public health.”

 

 

 

 

 

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