Young man killed by the police drawn parallels with Freddie Gray case
from various sources – November 2018
submitted by – Tippa Naphtali
News updates listed at the foot of this item
The death of Adama Traoré, a young black man who apparently was suffocated in the back of a police van on his 24th birthday, 19 July 2016, has drawn parallels with the Baltimore Freddie Gray case and the Black Lives Matter movement in general. It was in Beaumont-sur-Oise, a small town north of Paris, that Adama was out with his older brother planning how to celebrate his 24th birthday that evening when police drove by looking for Bagui in connection with a case. But Adama didn’t have his ID on him and tried to run. Hours later, he was dead in police custody.
The circumstances of the death were unclear at first. The first autopsy declared that Adama had succumbed to a serious infection. But the local prosecutor wrote that it had been heart failure. These contradictory accounts angered the family and fuelled suspicions of a cover-up.
Adama was transferred to a police station after his arrest. During transport, his condition worsened. Police said they immediately called paramedics when they noticed Adama was not well, but they were unable to save him. Officers involved in his arrest eventually admitted that the young man complained about having difficulty breathing when he was being restrained, but they denied using excessive force.
The family’s lawyer said Adama could have suffocated under the combined weight of the officers and that there was evidence that first death certificate was falsified. The second autopsy revealed Traoré had died of asphyxiation. Toxicology reports for cannabis and alcohol came back negative. The family insisted that someone, somewhere, had lied about what happened that night.
A senior firefighter later told the gendarmerie inquiry that when he arrived to resuscitate Traoré, he found he had not been placed in the recovery position but was lying face-down on the ground in handcuffs, with no one helping him – a statement that contradicted the gendarmes’ accounts. One of the gendarmes said Traoré had told the police he couldn’t breathe, but officers told the firefighter they thought he was faking it. The gendarmes at first refused to un-cuff him saying that he was violent.
A year after Adama’s death the circumstances surrounding his death remained ‘unexplained’, and allegations of a state cover-up and his family’s fight for justice made this one of France’s most high-profile cases of alleged police brutality.
Amid fury over a violent arrest in Aulnay-sous-Bois in which a police officer was charged with raping a young man, Theo, with a baton, clashes and rioting broke out in 2017 on estates around Paris leading to over 250 arrests.
Both cases reflect how officers are regularly accused of using excessive force in poorer neighbourhoods, particularly against black and minority ethnic young men.
Amnesty International had already sounded the alarm about police brutality in France in 2009 and 2011 and warned of the dangers of the restraint techniques used by police officers. The prone restraint – or face-down restraint – involved the detainee being pinned on a surface and physically prevented from moving out of this position. Research has suggested that restraining a person in this position can lead to asphyxia and the technique has been banned in countries such as Belgium and Switzerland, as well as Los Angeles and New York in the US. In France, this is still a lawful and acceptable restraint technique.
Adama’s family have repeatedly challenged the official explanations of his death.
His sister, Assa Traoré, said; “My brother was killed,” last week. She noted that her brother died on his 24th birthday. He died in atrocious conditions, alone, without us,” she said. “I was overseas. I couldn’t even give him a hug to wish him a happy birthday.”
Adama’s case attracted national attention in France, especially because some protests in his hometown of Beaumont-sur-Oise have turned violent and spread to several other suburbs.
Caroline Vivier, who came out to show her support for the family, says tension between young people and the police is not new here. “There has always been a relationship of force, for a long time,” she said. “And today, it’s being felt even more. We’re also thinking of recent events in the US. And unfortunately, today, we’re connecting these incidents.”
The devastating stories of these men who lost their lives in police custody raise concerns about institutional racism that is plaguing the French police. Just like the majority of police victims in France, Adama Traore, Amine Bentounsi and Lamine Dieng were not white.
In every case of suspected police brutality, French institutions shown a reluctance to allow a thorough investigation, meaning that the families, like the Traore family, are still waiting for a proper explanation about what happened.
1 February 2017