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Ile-de-France: Revolts this week against police violence

Posted: February 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Reportbacks | Comments Off on Ile-de-France: Revolts this week against police violence

Cops, rapists, murderers

Revolts have been spreading throughout Paris’  northern suburbs in the past week, in reaction to an extremely vicious police assault on Théo, a 22 year-old black man, who is still in the hospital. What follows is a collection of excepts translated from different (movement) texts and (mainstream) news articles currently circulating to give a sense of this wave of rebellion.Although things seem to be quieting down a little, bus service is still cut through the neighbourhoods after another night of rioting and at this moment a hundred or so people are kettled in Paris demonstrating against the police. 25 more youth were arrested this morning for rioting. The first excerpt describes the assault and so involves descriptions of physical and sexual violence, as a heads up. All links are to source texts.

What’s Happening in Aulnay-Sous-Bois

Around 5pm, Théo, 22, was the victim of a violent arrest in Aulnay-sous-Bois, in the Cité des 3000 [1]. He’d gone out to bring a pair of sneakers to a friend, but then was brutalized by four cops on the pretext of an ID check. After being struck, aware of the seriousness of the situation and that he would probably be falsely accused of being responsible for the altercation, he struggled to move to an area covered by surveillance cameras. His bag was torn away and he was held down by three cops while the fourth tried to scare off potential witnesses. Théo was beaten again before the fourth cop returned, pulled down Théo’s pants, and raped him with a telescopic baton [2]. Théo was then handcuffed, struck again, and pepper-sprayed in the face, including into his mouth… The police then moved out of the field of the surveillance cameras and continued their assault out of view. A witness persisted in watching the scene and refused to leave. At this point, the cops loaded Théo into their car. Inside the vehicle, they punched Théo in the eyes and genitals. They spat on him while making racist insults, calling him a “slut” nad making fun of the injury to his anus. By the time they arrived at the police station, Théo’s condition had deteriorated such that he was taken directly to the hospital in a wheelchair, his face swollen.

In the Robert Ballanger hospital in Aulnay, a doctor assessed “a longitudinal wound to the anal canal ten centimeters deep” and “a sectioned sphincteral muscle” and prescribed 60 days of rest free of work [3]. “Major lesions … clearly caused by the introduction of an object”.

Justice for Théo, Solidarity with Aulnay (feb 8)

Last Thursday in Aulnay-sous-Bois, Théo was raped with a baton by four cops during an ID check. The violence and racist insults continued all the way to the police station and the young man, suffering from serious wounds to the anus, had to be hospitalized. During the first hearing, the charge of gang rape was quickly withdrawn by the prosecutor in Bobigny [3] in preference of the term “assault” for three out of the four police, who were set free [4]. Once again, justice and police walk hand in hand.

Théo’s case is not isolated. There have been dozens of accounts of sexual humiliation by the police during routine stops these past years, without, of course, anyone being convicted. Unsurprisingly,these events occur in suburban housing projects, where the police no longer bother to hide their racism and enjoy creating a climate of fear by imposing regular humiliations on the population.

Since Thursday, the residents of Aulnay-sous-Bois have broken out in revolt calling for justice for Théo while being violently repressed by the police, who have deployed hundreds of officers and a helicopter, while public transportation and electricity are shut off in the Cité des 3000. There are few images available: as we could expect, the police have been using rubber bullets to deter those who try to film the repressive horrors. In the night of February 6 to 7, police fired live rounds at demonstrators, which they described as “warning shots” and claimed to have fired 17 times, even though they have at their disposal ever more sophisticated crowd control weapons.

After a week of police violence, the convictions come down and the 93 rumbles (feb 8)

Five youth accused of participating in the confrontations following the assault against Théo were just convicted, with two sentenced to six months of jail time and the three others given suspended sentences (more than the pigs are likely to get for their brutal actions) [5]. The response was immediate: clashes around the superior court in Bobigny and throughout the 93 [6]

The Paris Police Department confirms that live warning shots were fired on Tuesday, February 7th (an intimidation tactic rarely used, with only ten or so instances each year) and said that there were no shots fired towards individuals, but local residents disagree. In a video that circulated widely on social media, a cop armed with crowd control rifle aims it at a resident who was filming him, saying, “Stop filming… Hand over your phone or I fire.”

The street lights were repeatedly cut off during the various nights of rioting, which was attributed by some media sources to sabotage by the rioters, but there are suspicions that it was done deliberately by the police, perhaps to prevent pictures or videos from being taken of the clashes between residents and law enforcement. In a scheduling irony, this afternoon the National Assembly is set to consider a so-called “public safety” law that would increase the ability of police to open fire, putting them under the same rules as the gendarmes [7].

Article describes a similar case of anal injuries from a baton in 2015 where the cop was given a six month suspended sentence.

This case is part of a pattern that includes the police murder of Adam Traoré [8] this past July and has received among the most media coverage of any case of police violence in poor neighbourhoods we’ve seen. Following the United States, France seems to be realizing that its police force is violent, racist, and above the law. Let’s hope that this signals the end of police impunity that people in poor neighbourhoods and the families of victims have been seeking for so long [9]. At least, this will be the beginning of a revolt confronting the French State. Like the rapper Fianso said about the Adama Traoré case, “this deserves a second November 2005“. Without justice, you’ll have no peace.

Reportback on the [first] evening of solidarity with Théo

On Tuesday, Feb 6, after several days of rioting in the suburbs, the French president went and visited Théo in the hospital and all the usual pacifiers stepped up their attempts at restoring order. A callout for a solidarity demo circulated with a few hours notice. These are some excerpts of the reportback — click the link and scroll down for lots of smashy pictures

After several nights of rioting in Aulnay-sous-Bois and a march in support of Théo in the Cité des 3000, a last minute call was made for a rally in Paris on Tuesday February 7th for 6pm the same day at Ménilmontant.

In spite of the spontaneity of the rally, there were dozens of riot cops waiting for us, along with wagons from the police and gendarmerie who were parked on the four streets leaving Ménilmontant square.

Around 6:15, the gathering was already kettled by the cops, but before long, the late arrivals had in turn surrounded the cops who were kettling the others. In addition to the several hundred activists many faces and looks familiar from the head of the demo [10] during the movement against the Labour law, anarchists, anti-racists, and rebellious people of all kinds), lots of people from the neighbourhood were also heard yelling anti-police slogans. “Cops, Pigs, Murderes” sounded out, as well as the classic, “everyone hates the police” and also, “everyone hates rapists” — or even, “Zyed Bouna, Théo et Adama, we don’t forgive we don’t forget” [11].

After a little friction, the cops began to move a bit and the kettle broke apart. Almost all of us were able to gather together. More police wagons arrived and were greeted with jeers and blows. Some bus shelters were tagged, the atmosphere started to heat up, and the possibility of a snake march began to appear. We set off towards Courronnes down Boulevard Belleville, but there were too many police .

It must have been almost 7pm, and since the last wagons had arrived at the square from Ménilmontant road, there blue was a bit thinner there, so we took off, about 200-250 well motivated people. During this time, another demo headed towards Bastille square, but I can’t tell you about it since I wasn’t there.

The demo goes around a bit, dodging the cops and throwing up tags before returning to Ménilmontant square. It seems like it was going to disperse but…

But actually not completely, because a little while later, more and more people began to gather again in the square and confronted the riot cops. The chants picked back up (with the same content as before, of course) and the pigs drummed on their  shields to spook us and made a few charges to try and disperse us. But all they managed to do was create another snake march! At this point, around 8:30 or 8:45, about 150 took off up Boulevard Belleville and run down Jean-Pierre Timbaud road towards the fancy neighbourhoods… The pace was quick, fast walking and sometimes sprinting. And then just walking, because we managed to escape the riot police!

Once we reached the richer neighbourhoods of the 11th and 4th districts, the tags and flipped garbage cans gave way to smashing the windows of ATMs and banks. Some car share vehicles also saw their windows busted, as well as real estate agencies, advertising panels, and other capitalist symbols. It was a lil carnage for the bourgeoisie! Because, as a tag left in Ménilmontant square said: Police and justice exist to protect the rich. Vengeance.

They’ll always try to tell us that this isn’t how you make a revolution. We’d reply that we never claimed to be making a revolution in a 150 person snake march. But in any case, it pisses off the bourgies when we smash up their neighbourhoods and their property. And also, the revolution isn’t going to happen by signing petitions, so let’s be clear: smashing objects of capitalist domination is a small piece of making a revolution! At the very least, it shows our rage, it shows our refusal to submit: let the state take note that each time there’s a murder or mutilation or torture carried out by the pigs, they need to expect some chaos. The rioters demonstrated this in Aulnay-sous-Bois, big up to them. We showed it tonight in Paris. And we’ll keep going.

Because we no longer believe in justice or the police, we won’t call for calm. Police violence can’t stay unanswered.

[Similar rallies have continued each night since]
Tension still evident in Aulnay-sous-Bois

After the police violence Théo suffered during a brutal arrest in Aulnay-sous-Bois on Thursday, the tension is still palpable in the area in spite of the young man’s calls for peace. Our reporter was on scene overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Cat and Mouse. From one housing project to another, we hear the detonations, the mortar fire or the fireworks, then the police sirens, then calm. The youth vanish as quickly as they appear, often leaving their homemade weapons behind. “We found some molotov cocktails in the parking garage, there. It’s a game of cat and mouse, they attack, and then go home. It pisses off the cops, and by the end of the week, they’re nerves are shot. But that’s the point isn’t it^ said a law enforcement officer.

The 10th degree. Mohamed, 31, is a bit tired of playing big brother and has not desire to step between the rioters and the police. “ As long as they don’t torch anything in the project, we don’t care. All the cops had to do was not be such cow-boys. What they did to little Théo, they deserve to get that to the 10th degree.”


1] Aulnay is a suburb to the north of Paris and Cité des 3000 is the name of a large housing project. The word “suburb” might give the wrong idea, because unlike what’s common in North America around Paris, most of the brokest neighbourhoods are outside the city proper. The suburbs participating in the revolt here are also often the places that participated in the 2005 November uprising
3] Another suburb, north-east of Paris, where the superior court is located

2] “Violer”, “rape” is the term being widely used to describe this attack. In French law, rape is defined as any unconsensual sexual penetration, so it can be with a body part or an object.

3] This designation by a doctor entitles a person to financial support for a period of time, only in the case of serious injury

4] Mainstream news sources clarify that one cop is still charged with rape. All four cops have been suspended pending the investigation under various forms of bail conditions that, in theory, wouldn’t prevent most of them from continuing to work.

5] In France, the courts will often try to hold a trial within a few days of you being charged. You can refuse it, but that usually means spending months in jail waiting for trial

6] 93 are the first digits of the postal codes for the north-east suburbs

7] The gendarmes, like the carabinieri in Italy, are a policing body organized through the military rather than through civilian police departments that operates in parallel with the conventional police

8] Adama was killed by police this summer, again during a routine stop, by police who kneeled on his back as he lay on the ground, resulting in heart failure. There has been a large movement lead by his family calling for justice. Adama’s two brothers were also recently arrested and one, Bagui, is still in jail

9] It’s worth noting the limitations of calling for justice against the police. Most anarchists in the area, while participating in these mobilizations, are critical of the discourse condemning police brutality (because do we really just want a less brutal police force?) and in favour of justice (because what is justice if not another organ of state violence, alongside the police?).

10] During the movement against the labour law this spring, the most dynamic space in the Paris movement was the heads of the demos — people who wanted to have an uncontrollable march made their way to the front. By some estimates, they came to account for about a third of participation

11] Zyed and Bouna were about 15 when they died in 2005 after running into an electrical substation while trying to escape some cops. Their deaths lead to the 2005 uprising and their names and faces are still widely invoked to talk about the violence of the state

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