Rioters set fire to cars and a nursery school in the northern suburbs of Paris after a young black man was allegedly beaten and raped by French police. Last Thursday, French police detained a 22-year old youth worker, who has only been identified by his first name, Théo, during an identity check. Théo told French reporters that the police sprayed teargas into his face and beat him while another cop forced a police baton into his anus.
Théo was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. He will survive the assault, but will be incapacitated for three months. The brutal arrest brought simmering anger over French cops' treatment of immigrants in the poorer suburbs of the city to a head. Many young men in these neighborhoods report being humiliated by police who constantly stop them and demand their identity papers.
Protests soon began to spread throughout northwestern France, and several hundred people joined a protest march in Paris. Unrest continued to spread, reaching its peak on Wednesday, when rioters burned dozens of cars and set a nursery school on fire in the northern suburbs of Paris. "For the moment we're talking of very violent but isolated standoffs," Luc Poignant from the SGP police union said.
One of the cops involved in the incident has been charged with rape, and the others have been charged with assault. An initial investigation, however, concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” that Théo was raped. Police reviewed a video of the arrest that reportedly showed a cop “applying a truncheon blow horizontally across the buttocks,” after which Théo's pants “slipped down on their own.” One of the cops' expandable batons then somehow made its way into Théo's anus completely by accident, the cop's lawyer claims.
Sociologist Sebastian Roché told Le Parisien that French politicians have done little to address racial bias among police or the relationship between young people and the police. “The crucial question is how to treat citizens in an equal way?” he asked. “No government on the right or left has seized on this question.”