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Thousands take to streets in Paris to mark 2016 death of Black man in police custody

2020-07-25

Paris is burning with anger.

The fourth anniversary of the death of a Black man in police custody brought thousands to the streets to protest against police brutality in France.

On Saturday, protesters marched through a suburb in Paris calling for racial justice as they honor Adama Traoré, who died on his 24th birthday in July 2016.

Traoré was walking with his older brother in the Paris suburb of Beaumont-sur-Oise when they were approached by police.

He didn’t have an identification card with him and tried to run away, but he was later apprehended by three gendarmes, or armed French police officers.

The circumstances around his death remain unclear, but according to the Agence France-Presse, one of the three gendarmes involved in the incident told investigators that they pinned Traoré down with their combined body weight. He lost consciousness and later died at a nearby police station.

Since then four medical reports have failed to agree on the cause of death; whether he was suffocated as a result of the police’s actions, or if underlying conditions and possibly drugs contributed to his death.

The case sparked anger and outrage among those who fight for justice for the rights of racial minorities in the country — a sentiment that was emboldened by the reaction against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, and the Black Lives Matter movement that followed.

Floyd protests also revived investigative efforts in the case, according to The Associated Press.

“There are a huge number of names — they are immigrants, they are people from poor neighborhoods, they are Black, Arab, non-white — who are killed by police,” Traoré‘s sister, Assa, told reporters Saturday.

“Why did those investigations happen four years later?” she asked reporters. “These investigations are because the people put pressure on.”

Assa, who’s the spokeswoman for The Truth for Adama, an advocacy group that demands justice for Traoré, is calling for police to be charged with homicide for his death, saying her brother “took the weight of gendarmes” for several minutes.

“There’s a movement today. We call it the Adama generation, these people who are not afraid anymore, and these youth who will not shut up,” she told the AP.