Protesters take to the streets of France and Germany to condemn police racism

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Four years after the death of a 24-year-old black man, Adama Traoré, in police custody in France, several thousand people gathered Saturday in his memory in the context of the global Black Lives Matter movement.The festive event and the concert in Beaumont-sur-Oise paid tribute to Adama Traoré, who died at the age of 24 in July 2016 after an arrest in circumstances that remain obscure. But it was also about broader anti-government grievances and climate activists co-hosted this year’s protest. In addition to relatives, demonstrators included members of the “yellow vests” movement which organized a series of sometimes violent protests in 2018-19.

His case put the emphasis back on alleged police racism in France. The Traoré case also shed light on the struggle of other French families who have lost a loved one in police custody, including black and North African men, who French researchers say are disproportionately targeted by the police. According to a national count from the Basta Mag news site, at least 101 police-related deaths are under investigation in France.

Traore’s family and friends continue to press for a full account of the circumstances leading to his death amid heightened awareness of police brutality in a number of countries around the world. Traoré’s sister, Assa, who led the family’s long legal battle, on Saturday called on the police to be charged with manslaughter in the death of her brother, saying her brother “had put on the weight of the gendarmes” for several minutes. Family members of half a dozen other people who died from alleged police violence addressed the crowd, some of whom held placards that read “I can’t breathe.”
In May, French medical experts exonerated three police officers involved in the arrest, claiming that Traoré had not died of “positional asphyxiation” or suffocation. Instead, experts found that Traore died of heart failure likely caused by underlying health issues amidst “severe stress” and physical exertion. French judges have now called on Belgian experts to conduct a forensic examination of the evidence, and their results are expected in January 2021.

Since the assassination of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police in the United States in May, the campaign led by the family of Traore and other French activists against police violence targeting minorities has attracted renewed attention and mobilized thousands of people in protests around the nation of the European Union.

A march against racism also took place on Saturday in the German capital, Berlin. Holding posters saying that “racism kills mentally, physically and globally,” more than 1,500 protesters marched through the city center to condemn police brutality. As coronavirus restrictions are still in place in public spaces across Germany, many wore face masks and attempted to stand 1.5 meters from other protesters.

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