Anti-racism protests

Anti-racism protest leader accuses Paris police chief of slander

Assa Traoré, sister of Adame, killed in police custody in 2016, speaking at a rally in Paris 13 June 2020.
Assa Traoré, sister of Adame, killed in police custody in 2016, speaking at a rally in Paris 13 June 2020. AFP - THOMAS SAMSON

Assa Traoré, the leader of a racial justice protest movement in France, has filed a legal complaint against the Paris police chief for "falsely accusing demonstrators of anti-Semitism" at last Saturday's rally in support of her brother, Adama Traoré, who died in police custody in 2016.

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On behalf of the Verité pour Adama organisation (Truth for Adama), Assa Traoré filed two legal complaints for slander and publication of false information against police chief Didier Lallement.

The organisation slammed him for a post on the police prefecture's Twitter account accusing protesters at Saturday's demonstration of chanting anti-Semitic slogans – a gross generalisation, according to Traoré.

The police appear to have taken their cue from a video, showing the unfurling of a extreme right banner claiming justice for "anti-white" racism, during which the words "sale juif" or "dirty jew" are shouted by a man in the crowd. However, it is not possible to identify him.

Traoré's legal statement says: "Didier Lallement cannot deny the fact that the term 'dirty Jew' was not shouted by many protesters...but rather one single man".

According to the statement, witnesses and journalists at the scene did not mention any examples of anti-Semitic comments during the demonstration, which was largely followed and commented on social media, and that the comment on the video was an isolated case.

Traoré's lawyer Yassine Bouzrou told France Info radio that the police chief is not only guilty of slander against the protesters, but also of falsifying information, and publishing it through official channels.

"The prefect has the right to be a bad chief, but he doesn't have the right to break the law," Bouzrou said.

Slander is punishable with a 5 year prison sentence and a 45,000 euro fine. Publication of false information comes with a maximum 15 year sentence and a 225,000 euro fine.

The Paris police responded to France Info's request for information only with the following statement:

"It is up to each and every public servant to signal any breach of the law, which includes racist and anti-Semitic insults."

Saturday's rally, which was given the green light by authorities, saw thousands gather in place de la Republique despite a Covid-19 ban on large gatherings. It was organised in support of a legal inquiry into the death of Adama Traoré in police custody in 2016. 

It is the third demonstration against racism and alleged police violence held by the group in the past three weeks, and echoes the wider global Black Lives Matter movement, which again flared up last month following the killing in the United States of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police.

Earlier this week, Traoré family's lawyer made a second request to the justice department for a re-enactment of the events of 19 July 2016, to clarify the actions of the police officers involved in Traoré's arrest.

In a new development, as of the beginning of July, judges are to hear the accounts of two witnesses from that day, who had not previously been interviewed.

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