PARIS, March 20 — French police fired tear gas in clashes with hooded demonstrators in Paris yesterday as thousands marched against “police brutality” after the alleged rape of a black youth with a police baton.
The February attack on the 22-year-old man, identified only as Theo, cast a spotlight on rough policing methods in France and triggered riots in the gritty suburbs surrounding Paris.
Theo sustained severe anal and rectal injuries, as well as wounds to his head and face, during a stop-and-search operation in the Seine-Saint-Denis region northeast of Paris.
He said one of the police officers assaulted him with a baton, which has led to rape charges against him. Four officers have been suspended pending an investigation.
Police said around 7,000 to 7,500 people joined the march to Place de la Republique in central Paris, where demonstrators chanted “no justice, no peace” and “emergency, emergency, police are killing with impunity”.
Officers in riot gear used tear gas against some of the masked protesters who hurled back the canisters, AFP pictures showed.
Two police officers were lightly injured in the clashes and taken to hospital, authorities said, while 11 people were arrested.
Many in the crowd — who wore hoods, face masks, and sunglasses — carried anarchist flags, and police said five banks had their windows smashed.
Demonstrators also held a giant banner reading “Justice and dignity, end police impunity,” which included drawn images of 13 people presented as victims of police brutality.
“We would like for justice to be served,” co-organiser Amal Bentounsi told the crowd. Her brother Amine was shot dead in the back by an officer who was handed a five-year suspended sentence on appeal.
“My brother’s killer was convicted but there are other families for whom it is not the case.”
Fatiha Bouras, who said she is the mother of a victim, added there were “too many police killings — they have to stop”.
“It’s only Arabs and blacks who die,” she said.
In October 2005, the death of two teenagers who were electrocuted while hiding from police in an electricity substation sparked weeks of riots. Around 10,000 cars were set ablaze and 6,000 people were arrested. — AFP