Thousands in Paris protest death of black man in police custody

Protesters holding placards attend a banned demonstration in memory of Adama Traore, a 24-year old black Frenchman, who died in a 2016 police operation, Paris, France, June 2, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 June 2020

Thousands in Paris protest death of black man in police custody

  • Paris police chief Didier Lallement had refused permission for the rally to go ahead outside a Paris court for protesters calling for justice for Adama Traore
  • Many of the protesters on Tuesday drew inspiration from the protest movement in the United States over the police killing last week of George Floyd

PARIS: Thousands of people on Tuesday defied a ban to protest in Paris over the death of a young black man in French police custody in 2016, using slogans that echoed the protest movement raging in the US.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement had refused permission for the rally to go ahead outside a Paris court for protesters calling for justice for Adama Traore, whose death has long been a subject of controversy in France.
Many of the protesters on Tuesday drew inspiration from the protest movement in the United States over the police killing last week of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, brandishing viral slogans in English such as “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.”
“Today we are not just talking about the fight of the Traore family. It is the fight for everyone. When we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traore,” elder sister Assa Traore told the protest.
“What is happening in the United States is an echo of what is happening in France,” she added.
The Traore case has long been a rallying cause against police brutality in France, which young, black men say is often targeted at them.
Following a dispute over an identity check, Traore, 24, was apprehended in a house where he hid after leading police on a 15-minute chase in 2016.
He lost consciousness in their vehicle and died at a nearby police station. He was still handcuffed when paramedics arrived.
One of the three arresting officers told investigators that Traore had been pinned down with their combined bodyweight after his arrest.
Last Friday, French medical experts exonerated the three police officers, dismissing a medical report commissioned by the young man’s family that said he had died of asphyxiation.
It was the third official report to clear the officers.
Adding to the controversy, a new probe commissioned by the Traore family said Tuesday that his death was caused by the arrest technique used by the officers, a source said.
Lallement, meanwhile, wrote a letter to police officers defending their conduct, sympathizing with the “pain” officers must feel “faced with accusations of violence and racism, repeated endlessly by social networks and certain activist groups.”
The Paris police force “is not violent, nor racist: it acts within the framework of the right to liberty for all,” he insisted in an email to the city’s 27,500 law enforcers.
Star French actress Camelia Jordana, who is of Algerian origin, was rebuked last month by the French interior minister for saying people “get massacred” by the police in the Paris suburbs due to the color of their skin.
Several French officers have also been investigated for brutality against members of the public at long-running “yellow vest” anti-government rallies, and more recent anti-pension reform strikes.
Scores of protesters were maimed by rubber bullets or stun grenades, some losing an eye or a hand.
On January 3 this year, a 42-year-old man suffocated to death after being pinned face down to the ground during an arrest in Paris.
Last week, a 14-year-old was badly injured in one eye during a police operation in Bondy, one of Paris’s northern suburbs, sparking protests.
Lallement insisted Tuesday that any officer found to have acted wrongly would be appropriately punished.
“But I will not accept that individual actions throw into question the republican bulwark that we are against delinquency and those who dream of chaos and anarchy,” he wrote.


Six French citizens among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

Updated 17 min 48 sec ago

Six French citizens among eight killed by gunmen in Niger

  • It is believed to be the first such attack on Westerners in Koure, an area of southwestern Niger

KOURE: Six French citizens and their local guide and driver were killed Sunday by gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger home to the last West African giraffes, officials said.
It is believed to be the first such attack on Westerners in the area, a popular tourist attraction in the former French colony thanks to its unique population of West African or Niger giraffes.
“There are eight dead: two Nigeriens including a guide and a driver, while the other six are French,” the governor of the Tillaberi region told AFP.
“We are managing the situation, we will give more information later,” Tidjani Ibrahim Katiella said, without indicating who was behind the attack.
France’s presidency confirmed that French citizens had been killed in Niger, without giving the number of dead.
A source close to Niger’s environmental services said the assault took place at around 11:30 am (1030 GMT) six kilometers (four miles) east of the town of Koure, which is an hour’s drive from the capital Niamey.
“Most of the victims were shot... We found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene,” the source told AFP.
“We do not know the identity of the attackers but they came on motorcycles through the bush and waited for the arrival” of the group.
The source added that the victims’ vehicle belonged to the French humanitarian organization ACTED.
The source also described the scene of the attack, where bodies were laid side-by-side next to a torched vehicle, which had bullet holes in its rear window.
In Paris, a spokesman for the French army said France’s Barkhane force, which fights extremists in the Sahel region, had provided support to Niger’s forces.
An AFP reporter at the scene of confirmed that French fighter jets flew overhead later Sunday as Niger’s army searched the vast wooded area.
Forensic police were collecting samples ahead of the bodies being moved before night fell, the reporter added.
The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said he spoke on the phone with his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou.
Neighbouring Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita meanwhile strongly condemned the “barbaric act.”
He lamented that “violent extremism” was still rife in the Sahel region “despite the merciless war waged by national armies, the G5 Sahel joint forces and the Barkhane force.”
Around 20 years ago, a small herd of West African giraffes, a subspecies distinguished by its lighter color, found a safe haven from poachers and predators in the Koure area.
Today they number in their hundreds and are a key tourist attraction, enjoying the protection of local people and conservation groups.
A Western humanitarian source based in Niamey said “we all go to Koure on weekend outings because it’s very easy to access.”
“Everyone goes there, even ambassadors, diplomats, teachers... it is not considered a dangerous zone at all. There are NGOs protecting giraffes there,” the source told AFP.
However the Tillaberi region is in a hugely unstable location, near the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso.
The region has become a hideout for Sahel extremist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
The use of motorcycles has been totally banned since January in an attempt to curb the movements of such extremists.
Numerous Europeans have been abducted or killed in the volatile Sahel.
Two young Frenchmen, Antoine De Leocour and Vincent Delory, were killed after being kidnapped by extremists from a restaurant in Niger’s capital Niamey in 2011.