Paris protesters mark the fourth anniversary of the death of Adama Traoré
Protesters have marched through a Paris suburb to mark the fourth anniversary of the death of a black man in custody, whose case has sparked anger against police brutality and racial injustice in France.
The demonstration in Beaumont-sur-Oise honoured Adama Traoré, who died on his 24th birthday in July 2016 after an arrest in circumstances that remain unclear. The protest, which also focused on broader anti-government grievances, was co-organised by climate activists.
Since George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in May, Traoré’s family and other French activists have campaigned against police violence towards minority ethnic people. Their campaign has gained renewed attention and mobilised thousands around the country.
Traoré’s sister Assa, who has led the family’s long legal fight, called for police to be charged with homicide in her brother’s death. She said her brother “took the weight of gendarmes” for several minutes.
Investigative efforts into the Traoré case have been revived in recent weeks, following the Black Lives Matter protests.
“Why did those investigations happen four years later?” Assa Traoré said. “These investigations are because the people put pressure.”
On the day of his death, gendarmes approached Traoré and his brother for an identity check in Beaumont-sur-Oise, which is north of Paris. Traoré ran away because he didn’t have his ID but the gendarmes arrested him. Within hours he was declared dead.
One gendarme initially said three officers had jumped on Traoré to pin him down but the gendarmes later denied that. Twelve court-ordered medical reports found various cardiac diseases were responsible. The Traoré family countered those with an independent autopsy and medical reports pointing to asphyxiation.
The case is still under investigation and lawyers for the officers deny police were at fault. No one has been charged.
Traoré’s case has also shed light on the struggle of other French families who have lost relatives in police custody. These are notably black and north African men, who French researchers have found are disproportionately targeted by police. According to a nationwide report by the news website Basta Mag at least 101 police-related deaths are under investigation.
Ramata Dieng, whose 25-year-old brother Lamine Dieng died in a police van in 2007, spoke at Saturday’s rally and called for the creation of an independent body tasked with investigating instances of police violence. Dieng, whose family is French-Senegalese, also demanded a ban on heavy police weaponry and the repeal of a 2017 law that expanded police powers.
The French government recently agreed to pay Dieng’s family €145,000 (£131,000) to end legal proceedings over his death under a settlement brokered by the European court of human rights.
Assa Traoré has been touring French suburbs with large immigrant and minority ethnic communities, and organising activists across racial, geographical and economic lines to try to prompt an overhaul of France’s policing policies.
She said: “There are a huge number of names – they are immigrants, they are people from poor neighbourhoods, they are black, Arab, non-white – who are killed by police.”
Traoré, whose family is of Malian heritage, has called for a ban on dangerous techniques that police use to immobilise people. She has also urged France to scrap police oversight agencies, which are composed of police officers themselves, in favour of independent bodies.