1 quest for justice fuels the fight for black rights in France


IVRY-SUR-SEINE, France (AP) – Assa Traoré has been fighting for justice since the death of his brother Adama, detained by French police on his 24th birthday four years ago. And she is determined to keep fighting until “the end,” she says: until someone is sentenced for her death.

But recently, its goal has widened. She is now at the forefront of a new movement for the rights of blacks, to eliminate systemic racism in the maintenance of order and to challenge the official vision of France of herself as a society color blind.

“We have become soldiers in spite of ourselves,” this week told Assa Traore, whose family is of Malian origin. “There is a movement today. We call it the Adama generation, these people who are no longer afraid and these young people who will not be silent. ”

The 35-year-old woman, who gave up her job as a special education teacher in a small Parisian suburb to lead a movement demanding justice for her brother, has renewed her goal since the death of George Floyd after being detained by the police from Minneapolis.

“George Floyd is also our brother here in France,” Traore said in an interview before a demonstration on Saturday to mark the anniversary of Adama’s death – his determined speech, his palpable energy. “When you see the death of George Floyd, you imagine the death of my brother Adama Traoré. ”

It is not the first time that France has taken into account its colonial history and its relations with its black and North African citizens. Police deaths often lead to protests, most memorable in the form of nationwide unrest in 2005 caused by the deaths of two boys who were electrocuted while hiding in a substation after fleeing the police.

But now France is experiencing a growing push against police violence and racism which, according to many activists, is exacerbated by the country’s official color blindness doctrine, which encourages immigrants to integrate and prohibits the government from collecting data. census on race.

While four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest have been charged – including one for murder behind bars – no one has been charged with the death of Adama Traoré. It was not filmed and the cause of death is still the subject of heated debate.

On July 19, 2016, police approached Adama and his brother for an identity check in the town of Beaumont-sur-Oise north of Paris, where the big family grew up. Adama fled by bicycle because he did not have his identity card. Gendarmes caught him and arrested him. Within hours, he was declared dead.

A gendarme initially said that three police officers jumped on Traore to corner him, according to the first reports of the police force. The constable later denied that any of them had caught him.

The exact cause of death is not even clear. A dozen court-ordered medical reports have found that various heart conditions are responsible. The Traoré family responded to those with an independent autopsy and medical reports pointing more to asphyxiation. The matter is still under investigation and lawyers for the police deny that the police are at fault.

In his quest for justice for his brother, Assa Traoré met families of those who died at the hands of the police, visited troubled French suburbs where most of the population was immigrant or non-white, and organized activists across race, geography and economy lines.

In June, as France reopened its doors against the virus and videos of the murder of Floyd circulated around the world, it gathered tens of thousands of demonstrators to draw attention to the own problems of the French racial minorities with the police.

“We have to change everything, this systemic racism, we have to break it,” said Traoré. She called for a ban on dangerous techniques that the police use to immobilize people who “massively kill blacks, Arabs and non-whites”.

She also believes that France should abolish the police oversight bodies, which are currently made up of police officers themselves, in favor of independent bodies.

In 2016, France’s top citizen advocate said that black and Arab French people were 20 times more likely to be arrested by police than others. In 2020, Jacques Toubon published a study detailing systemic racism in the Paris police. The government is committed to eliminating racism in the police force, but attributes the problem to a few bad apples.

Traoré has built bridges with other social movements – such as the yellow vest against economic injustice and the climate crisis movement.

“We have been going to all the poor districts of France for four years,” said Traoré. “We have been in the most remote places in France, in small villages, it has been four years of alliances with domestic workers, undocumented migrants, yellow vests, climate groups.”

This Saturday’s march was organized with climate activists under the slogan: “We want to breathe”.

“Today, the struggle for Adama Traoré no longer belongs to the Traoré family,” said Traoré. “It is representative of a great malaise and a dysfunction of the French State, so it is a struggle that we are fighting together.”

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