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Police racism in France under spotlight in wake of George Floyd protests

PRESSURE is growing on France to act over police racism in the wake of the George Floyd protests in the United States.

French media reported today complaints from the families of four 14-year-olds who were arrested by police on May 26 when they went into a grocer’s to buy drinks and sweets. 

In custody the four report being slapped, abused as “stupid Maghrebians” (a reference to the north African region including Algeria) and “faggots,” that a police officer told colleagues to “put the two blacks together” and that they were accused of a number of unrelated crimes before being released 24 hours later.

Lawyer Jerome Karsenti said that they were clearly “arrested because of their skin colour, not as individuals.”

The spotlight is on police racism with heavy fines having been levied on French citizens accused of breaking lockdown rules, and ethnic-minority citizens disproportionately the victims of such fines.

Giant rallies were held in Paris on Tuesday to coincide with George Floyd’s funeral in the US, and marchers carried banners calling for justice for Adama Traore, who died in French police custody in 2016. 

On Monday, in response to pressure from campaigners, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that he would ban police chokeholds and make more officers wear cameras.

French riot police deployed savage violence against trade-union rallies held in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s attacks on pensions over the winter, and last year maimed and blinded hundreds of attendees at Yellow Vests’ protests.

An app called Emergency – Police Violence, launched by families of victims of police killings, records arrests live and automatically uploads them to the app’s server so they can be salvaged if the phone is seized or broken. Since its release in March it has been downloaded over 30,000 times.

And anti-racism activist Sihame Assbague said: “I don’t expect much from the state or public authorities, but what I know is they respect strength. That’s why it’s important to organise.”

Police union Unite SGP Police-Force Ouvriere general secretary Yves Lefebvre admitted that lockdown had made the police “a repressive tool” and blamed government policy for “confrontation” between police and residents in poor neighbourhoods.

“Public services have deserted these neighbourhoods,” he told the Associated Press. “Police only enter them to restore order.”

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