PARIS — Thousands gathered Tuesday evening in the French capital to protest a medical report that seemingly exonerated law enforcement over the 2016 death of a black man in the Paris region, a case that has been likened to that of George Floyd in the United States.
Adama Traoré was 24 when he died after being taken into custody and gendarmes reportedly used what was described as an “abdominal tackle” on him. Last Friday, a court-ordered medical report found that he didn’t die from asphyxiation but from a cardiac condition, seemingly exonerating the officers.
In response, Traoré’s family and a number of organizations, including some Yellow Jackets, called for the protest outside the Paris courthouse. On the event’s Facebook page, the call to protest only mentioned the medical report but after the mass protests over the death of Floyd — an unarmed black man who died after being pinned down by a police officer’s knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes — the organizers drew a parallel with the U.S. case.
“His last words were ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,’” Traoré’s sister Assa Traore, who is also an anti-racism activist, said on French morning television, comparing them to the last words Floyd uttered.
But though both Floyd and Traoré died in the course of a police operation, Floyd’s death was declared a homicide by the medical examiner’s office, while Traoré’s is still a point of contention. There is also disagreement over whether racism and police violence in the U.S. and France are comparable.
“George Floyd is not Adama Traoré. The systemic racism that reigns in the U.S. doesn’t have an equivalent in France,” tweeted Amine El-Khatmi from leftist collective Le Printemps Républicain.
On Tuesday, a medical report ordered by the Traoré family found that he died because of “constriction through abdominal tackle.”
— Nora (@noracharef) June 2, 2020
Earlier in the day, Paris Police Prefect Didier Lallement issued a statement banning the protest because it had failed to get proper authorization and because a state of emergency is still in place over coronavirus. But the protest went ahead, with many wearing masks to respect the coronavirus health guidelines, and a big police presence on the sidelines.
The protest was predominantly peaceful, although BFMTV did broadcast footage of an American flag being set on fire after most of the protesters had started leaving, and France24 reported riot police fired tear gas as some protesters pelted them with debris as the demonstration wound down.
People reportedly also gathered in Lyon, Marseille and Lille. No official estimate of the number of protesters was available at the time of publication from either the organizers or the police.